Josiah Pollock: Living History

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Josiah Pollock, '18 History, has a passion for local history that isn't confined to a textbook.

Update to our orginal story: Josiah will continue working on Fort Nisqually. He's also taking steps to start a musuem in Southwest Washington called the Cowlitz Farm. Josiah wrote his capstone paper about the farm and hopes to have it published in Pacific Northwest Quarterly.

Josiah Pollock has a favorite quote: “Pupils are taught the outline of our national and world history but little or nothing of their home city where most of them were born.” The statement comes from Clarence Bagley, one of Washington state’s first historians.

Pollock, graduates with from UW Tacoma with a degree in US history but his passion is local history. He currently serves as an historical interpreter at the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Point Defiance Park. Pollock has been involved with the park in some capacity since childhood. “I participated in my very first reenactment when I was six years old and I loved it,” he said.

Pollock received a 2018 Mary Gates Scholarship for his research into the first non-native settlement in the Puget Sound.The 21-year-old Pollock is the fourth of nine children in his family. His father passed away in 2009 from colon cancer. Pollock’s mother homeschooled all of her children. Josiah credits this experience with helping him cultivate a love of history. “I got to explore different subjects and learn at my own pace,” he said. “Chances are, if I wasn’t doing homework I was reading history.”

Fort Nisqually is considered the first European settlement on Puget Sound. The Hudson’s Bay Company operated the facility as a trading post near present day DuPont. Pollock is fluent in the details. His experience at the reenactment led him to begin volunteering at the fort. Over the years, he attended summer camps at the site and participated in the fort’s apprentice interpreter program.

At age 18 Pollock signed up for classes at Pierce College. He decided to step back from his volunteer work to focus on his studies. Two summers ago he received a phone call. “The museum was short-staffed and they asked if I would come work for them,” said Pollock.

The decision to work at Fort Nisqually corresponded with the end of Pollock’s time at Pierce. He had originally planned to move elsewhere to pursue a history degree. “Getting that job really pushed me towards staying local,” he said.

Pollock came to UW Tacoma as a junior transfer in the fall of 2016. He combined his history major with a minor in museum studies. “Working and taking these classes at the same time has been very helpful,” said Pollock. “I get to see both the theory and the practice.”

His experience at UW Tacoma has helped Pollock in other ways. When he’s not working or in class, Pollock is researching. “The database access I have here has really helped me in my research,” he said. “I’m getting a better sense of where I can go from here.”

Pollock is considering graduate school, perhaps going as far as a Ph.D. in agricultural history. One of his major goals is to write a comprehensive history of Fort Nisqually. Pollock sees this as part of a larger vision to help connect people to their surroundings. “History isn’t just in textbooks, it’s right here,” he said.

One of Pollock’s favorite things to do as a historical interpreter is show people a map of the area and ask them to point out where they live. “I tell them ‘Oh, there used to be a sheep park there,’” he said. “People get excited when they learn that history has a direct connection to them.”

Return to 2018 Commencement: 1,850 Change Makers

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Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / January 17, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or johnbjr@uw.edu