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Jody Blankenship, incoming IHS President and CEO, answers a few questions about himself. Find out more about him here.
What inspired you to enter the history field?
While in college, I had the opportunity to research and write a paper about early 20th-century eastern and southern European immigration to the United States. That is when my family migrated here from Poland. Working with historical collections, reading letters, diaries, reports and other primary sources was incredible. It helped me to understand where people like my great-grandparents came from, who they were and what they aspired to for themselves and their families. It gave me a new perspective and deeper understanding of what my ancestors went through and how their sacrifices have provided me with opportunities. After that project, I was hooked! I wanted to learn more and help others find what I had. I cannot imagine working in another field.
Do you have a favorite historical figure or time period and why?
My favorite historical period is 1815 to 1860, a period when the United States went through a great deal of expansion and reform. This was the nation’s adolescence. I find it so interesting to read about how the country dealt with issues such as religion, slavery, territorial expansion and social turmoil. So many of the issues we deal with today have their roots in this time period.
What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
My favorite thing to do when I am not working is spend time with my wife, Barbara, and our dog, Baxter. Usually, we’re out hiking or exploring neighborhoods and historic sites in the towns across the state. In addition, I enjoy gardening, am an aspiring painter (abstract expressionism), and am learning to play the banjo.
How do you feel about moving to Indiana and back to the Midwest?
We are very excited to be moving back to the Midwest and especially Indiana. Nothing makes you realize how the people and culture of the Midwest has influenced your character and values like spending time in another region of the country. We have family in Southeastern Michigan, Northwestern Ohio and Chicago. It will be wonderful to be close to them again!
What are you reading right now?
I tend to read several books at once and have a variety of interests. However, in preparing for my new position at the Indiana Historical Society, I’m reading Dr. James Madison’s Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana and Lana Ruegamer’s A History of the Indiana Historical Society, 1830-1980.
Abraham Lincoln: would you say he’s from Indiana, Illinois or Kentucky?
From my own experience, I know that my character and values were shaped as a child by family and community. If this is true for others, then Lincoln must certainly be from his childhood home, Indiana!