One of the many black and white clocks at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN, 2018.
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Making a Bucket List of History

One of the many black and white clocks at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN, 2018.
One of the many black and white clocks at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN, 2018.

The Origin of the Bucket List

It can be difficult to pin down the origins of terms that arise in the popular culture. Such is the case with the term “bucket list,” which has come to mean a list of things you want to do before you die. Slate’s June Thomas tried to follow the trail of the term in her 2011 article, but needed to add an update to it in May 2015. Apparently, the term as it is currently used was coined by Justin Zackham, screenwriter for the movie “Bucket List,” which starred Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

Regardless of its origins, bucket list has become common in American culture, with people creating bucket lists to help them stay focused on the important things they want to do in life before they die. They don’t want death suddenly creeping up on them and snatching them away before they’ve had a chance to fulfill their dreams.

A History-Themed Bucket List

I’d like to take the idea of a bucket list and push it further by creating a themed bucket list, one that focuses on history-related experiences. Part of the thought behind this is that most of us want to leave some sort of legacy that survives beyond our death, and that is an important motivation for capturing our personal histories. In addition, learning about history is a lifelong pursuit and tends to be part of many of the things we already do, so pairing history with bucket lists is a natural fit. If a regular bucket list is about living life to the fullest, a history bucket list can encompass both enjoying life now and planning for your legacy after death.

My Bucket List of History

In order to give you some idea of what a Bucket List of History might include, here’s mine, which was rather hastily compiled and has room for growth.

  • Visit the Smithsonian – The Smithsonian Institution includes 19 different museums and galleries, along with the National Zoological Park. When I read the list of museums, I find myself wanting to visit most of them, with the American Indian Museum, the American History Museum, the African American Museum, the Renwick Gallery, and the Cooper Hewitt topping my list. Oh, and I can’t forget the Portrait Gallery, where I want to see something very specific: The portraits of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama.
  • Visit the Louvre in Paris because ART!
  • Visit the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy, to see Michelangelo’s “David.”
  • Visit Sweden, Denmark and Austria because my great-grandparents came from these countries.
  • Visit Iceland, the United Kingdom, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and India for the history, culture and art.
  • Visit Edgar Allan Poe’s house in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Visit the House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin, just to see how accurate Neil Gaiman’s description of it in “American Gods” is.
  • Visit Stonehenge.

As you can see, this is a travel-heavy history bucket list so far, which is fine because there are lots of fascinating places to experience in the world, but my history bucket list doesn’t just include travel.

Continuing on, I want to …

  • See Inka khipu in real life.
  • Watch fabric dying and weaving within an old mill.
  • Make a 1920s-style dress.
  • Make more books from start-to-finish, including the research, writing, page layout, and book binding.
  • Create photo books for my children.
  • Learn more about the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. (That Constitution certainly is getting a workout lately, isn’t it?)
  • Read an American history compendium.
  • Read a world history compendium.
  • Read books written by Eleanor Roosevelt.
  • Take part in an archaeological dig.
  • Write a Wikipedia page on Nathan Richardson.
  • Write an article on the history of Pine Tree Lumber Company.
  • Take regular nostalgia trips through my collections of photos, books, music, fiber arts supplies and projects, and my writing notebooks.
  • Decide what to do with the notebooks, art, calendars, blogs, articles, and publications I’ve created throughout my life. This is a legacy piece for my bucket list.
  • Decide what to do with the family photos, genealogy, art and artifacts passed on to me by my family. Another bit of legacy work on my bucket list.

As you can see, there can be a lot of variety on a History Bucket List.

Now it’s your turn. What would you put on your Bucket List of History?

Please share in the comments.



4 thoughts on “Making a Bucket List of History”

  1. Try starting a new xcel spreadsheet, then enter all your birthdays back to the day you were born, then fill in an activity, insert a memory or interaction, or a photo for every day from your memory, records, journals, planners, etc, At 69, it makes quite a large spreadsheet “however a great journal of my life” for my grand kids!

  2. What a great idea for a bucket list of history, Tony! (I know a few people who loooooove spreadsheets.) Thanks for sharing!


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