Today's Transitions Summer 2019

Page 44

By Lucy M. Pritchett Illustration Dan Kisner


Carol Ely

Carol Ely has served as executive director of Historic Locust Grove since 2004. She is also an adjunct professor in the University of Louisville’s graduate program in public history. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and theater from Tufts University and earned her doctorate in American history from Brandeis University. Before moving to Louisville, she was assistant director of the Paul Revere House in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the author of Jewish Louisville: Portrait of a Community. Her current obsession? The musical Hamilton. A skill everyone should have?

The ability to listen. A hands-on skill? Know how to cook. My dad, my husband, and both of my sons (one is a professional chef) can cook. You have to know how to feed yourself. What advice would you give the younger you?

It will all work out. I’m a worrier, but I’m lucky that it did all work out. What were your plans for yourself?

What I planned is what happened. I work in a museum, I teach, and I raised a family. I look forward to doing more writing. I like tying history to things people are concerned about today. What have you learned about yourself?

I’ve gotten past my early shyness. I realize that I have a right to have an opinion and a place at the table. Pet peeve?

People who don’t listen, who don’t hear you. They can’t absorb what you are saying due to their own preconceptions. Can’t get the knack of?

Staying in the present moment. My mind is always on multiple tracks and sometimes I’m not focused on what’s right in front of me.

Would like to meet?

Carol Ely

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote Hamilton. I’m fascinated that he is not an historian and yet made history so accessible to people. Turning Points?

When I left home and went to college, I knew I was kind of on my own at that point and responsible for my decisions and my life. Another one was when I came to Locust Grove. It was what I was working toward and offered a possibility and opportunity to really shape something. How do you motivate people?

People need a voice in what they work on and are passionate about. I try to find an overlap between their passion and what we want to accomplish. What does the average American not understand about history?

There is a difference between what happened in the past and how we tell the story of what happened. We are always learning, and there are multiple viewpoints. A lesson you learned the hard way?

You have to let go of things you have no control over. That’s a lesson I keep learning and relearning. What’s the best advice you’ve gotten?

Oddly, a bit of good business advice came from the novel

42 Summer 2019 /

Disclosure by Michael Crichton: Solve the problem. There are always politics and differences of opinion, but if you can define the real problem you can find the real solution. A few of your favorite historians?

My favorite is Edmund Morgan, who writes concisely and eloquently about the American Revolutionary period. Also Nathaniel Philbrick, Simon Schama, and Russell Shorto.

How do you keep your spirits up?

Talking with other people. We have fantastic volunteers who all want to be here, and I just go out and talk to them about anything — how their day has been or what program they are working on. What the world needs now...

I wish more people understood the common good that comes from great schools, great parks, great social service programs, and great libraries, and would be more willing to fund them.