Historical knowledge leads to future insight

Dr. Christopher Epplett teaches in the History Department at the University of Lethbridge and has a broad number of research interests that include ancient military and social history, particularly that of the Hellenistic world and the later Roman Empire. He is not, however, always thinking of the past.

Epplett believes the study of the ancients is one way of understanding contemporary situations and events. His work with the Galt Museum & Archives, for example, helps him keep an eye to the future.

Epplett believes that knowledge of local history can help a community move forward in a direction that's consistent with the path it has chosen in the past.

"I have an interest in local history even though it's not my specialty," Epplett says, "it's essential for a community to keep in touch with its roots, to understand where it came from."

Awareness of all the accomplishments of citizens in the past builds pride and a sense of community. At the Galt Museum & Archives, Epplett helps develop upcoming exhibits, such as the Medieval and Egyptian exhibits in 2008, strategies for fundraising, and ways to increase awareness of the Galt in the community and at various levels of government. He assists in ensuring that the Galt has a broad appeal for all members of the community.

Since January 2008, Epplett has also served as chair of the Galt's Cultural History Collection Committee, which works with the curator to set policy decisions related to acquisition, storage, and de-accession of artifacts. The committee makes policy decisions after considering future exhibits at the Galt, as well as complementary exhibits at other museums, and then brings a plan back to the board. Lucelle Prindle, chair of the Galt's board, feels it is beneficial to both the museum and the U of L to have faculty members like Epplett on the board.

They bring "valuable expertise and insight," Lucelle says, and the museum provides "opportunities for students to gain experience by working in the archives and exhibits of the museum."

As a teacher and a researcher, Epplett believes it is important to support and to play an active role in the community.

"I think it's the responsibility of the University," he notes, "to ensure that its programs and its graduates are well-prepared to serve the community and perform a useful function. Those who study history and have a good grasp of it are better-rounded citizens."

Motivated by his passion for history and his sense of duty to educate both the local and broader community, Epplett enjoys finding and fitting together pieces of the historical puzzle. While present-day southern Alberta is a long way and time from the Roman Empire, Epplett is gaining recognition internationally for his research, and contributing to the cultural well being of the University and the local area.
This story originally appeared in Lethbridge living magazine