In this column, we are featuring one of the invaluable volunteers who supplement and complement the work of our paid staff in so many ways.
Iniya Raja comes to us from South Windsor High School. Her love for history led her to participate in the National History Day Competition, where she’s placed in the national top 10 for the past
two three years. [this article was originally published in the Windsor Historical Society newsletter in December 2020, and the original text has not been otherwise updated]
How long have you volunteered for WHS, and what inspired you to become a volunteer?
I’ve volunteered at WHS for a couple of months now. I was inspired to become a volunteer because I really love history and wanted to learn more, especially local history. While volunteering, not only do I gain a deeper understanding about certain time periods in my community, I can help preserve that information. I think it’s important to understand how our contemporary society was shaped by the past, as well as the mistakes we made back then because there is so much to learn from!
Is there anything you particularly like about volunteering here?
I love researching at WHS because it’s sort of like solving a large puzzle, first finding the pieces then putting them together to form a clear picture of my topic. The access to primary sources at WHS is especially amazing and I love reading through them. As I continue to research, it’s highly rewarding to see a story form.
And while like anything else, I do face issues, I love that at WHS I always have someone around to help me. The librarian, Ms. Tom, has especially been extremely helpful in guiding me through navigating the numerous resources and understanding certain aspects relating to my research. I could not have done so much without the support of everyone at WHS!
What have you learned while volunteering here?
While I haven’t volunteered for long, I’ve learned so much! My current topic takes place in Windsor during the late 1700s, both of which I don’t have much historical knowledge on. During my time at WHS however, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding of both. For example, many words/phrases were unfamiliar to me or used differently. I’ve also learned a lot about researching, such as how to complete a will/inventory analysis. By doing a deeper study of the inventory of the person I’m currently researching, Dr. Primus Manumit, I was able to learn much more about his social standing, lifestyle, values, and him as a person.
What influenced you to develop an interest in history?
Initially, I developed an interest in history due to my interest in good stories. I loved hearing about the past and specific events that occurred. As I grew up, I came to truly appreciate these stories, understanding how they have influenced the world I grow up in today as well as the many things I can learn from them. For example, by looking at the 1918 Spanish influenza, we can learn what is important and what to avoid when dealing with the current pandemic.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in volunteering but might be nervous about getting started?
I would tell them that there is no reason to be nervous and to get started right away!! Everyone at WHS is very welcoming and extremely helpful in finding the right opportunities for you based on your interests. Not only that, but when you do find your particular area of volunteering, the staff is very helpful! The volunteering itself is rewarding and flexible, so you can work around your own schedule. It’s truly been an honor and a privilege to volunteer at WHS, I have learned so much and highly recommend others to volunteer as well!
Photo by Doug Shipman.