Public history enthusiast soars in first year at Gettysburg College

For as long as he can remember, Ziv Carmi ’23 has been drawn toward public history. Since he was a toddler, he and his family have visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, a cornerstone of his community in Southern California.

During his senior year of high school, Carmi became one of the Library’s youngest docent—a museum educator and tour guide—after completing an extensive, six-month training program. When he learned of Gettysburg College’s rich public history offerings, which aligned with his interest in museum curation, he applied Early Decision to pursue his undergraduate studies across the country.

“Applying Early Decision was right since Gettysburg was the only school that I applied to that I felt was a good fit for me,” Carmi said.

Although he is a full-time student at Gettysburg, he still volunteers at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library over breaks, where he has logged more than 400 hours of service. Since he first began as a special exhibit volunteer in the Titanic and Genghis Khan exhibits nearly three years ago, he has completed more than 400 hours of service in addition to the aforementioned docent training program.

Ziv Carmi with a statue of Ronald Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Already equipped with some prior public history knowledge, Gettysburg has allowed him to expand his abilities to interpret and share significant historical information. As a history major with public history and Civil War era studies minors, Carmi’s first year has already provided him with invaluable academic experiences.

He published a research paper from his First-Year Seminar, “From the Earth to the Moon,” in The Cupola, which is Gettyburg’s open-access repository for student and faculty scholarly work. He then presented his findings on presidential leadership in the Space Age at this year’s Celebration of Academic First-Year Engagement (CAFE) Symposium.

“[I’ve learned] fascinating [ways] to look at the complexities of a historical era that so many consider to be black and white,” he said.

Carmi also found a research opportunity through the Civil War Institute. He was recently tasked with researching and writing an entry about a soldier from the Battle of Gettysburg for Killed at Gettysburg, a digital history project that documents and memorializes the lives of Civil War soldiers.

“[Killed at Gettysburg] is enlightening,” Carmi said. “[It] is the first truly original research I have ever done and is making me consider a career in higher academia to potentially pursue similar projects.”

The Lincoln Scholar selected an eclectic course load, from archaeology to Mandarin, that affords him the opportunity to learn unique perspectives while becoming prepared for a future in public history. Some courses even took him to Antietam, Maryland, to study other Civil War battlegrounds firsthand, while back on Gettysburg’s historic land, others help Carmi grow his ability to conduct deep historical analysis.

“In my Islamic history course, we are often highly critical of historical documents, which is, of course, a skill necessary to be an effective historian, but one that is new and intriguing to me as a history nerd,” he said. “I really love the uniquely small and personalized liberal arts and sciences education I can get here.”

Ziv Carmi at the inauguration of President Bob Iuliano

Carmi has also pursued valuable experiences outside of his academic interests. A high school Quiz Bowl champion, he has continued his stint on the collegiate level by competing with Gettysburg’s team at the University of Maryland and University of Pennsylvania this year. Inspired by Gettysburg’s liberal arts mission, which emphasizes experiential learning and leadership, Carmi successfully ran for a seat in Student Senate. Despite never before holding office in student government, this position has improved his leadership and communication skills. He also recently picked up a new history-oriented activity by joining the Pennsylvania College Guard reenacting unit.

Although the Reagan docent came to Gettysburg with public history experience under his belt, he will further his experience this summer with the Paul Reber Fellowship at Stratford Hall, Virginia, through the Civil War Institute. There, Carmi will work as a fellow, applying his curatorial and historical interpretation skills in a professional setting.

Learn more about Gettysburg’s offerings for public history with the Civil War Institute.

By Phoebe Doscher ’22
Photos courtesy of Shawna Sherrell and Ziv Carmi ’23
Posted: 04/01/20