There are tons of historical societies and associations of various types that you can join if you are interested in history. There are local, national and international organizations, and ones that cater to different interests, have varying requirements for involvement and levels of structure and formality. I will discuss some of these individually in future posts and hopefully you will find one that is a good fit for you.
Today I’ve singled out one group in my ongoing quest to show that history can be fun and interesting. I’m not sure where I first heard of this group, but I wrote it down on my “research someday” list. Now that I’ve done some research, I want to share with you what I know about the Detroit Drunken Historical Society.
This historical society started with a meetup.com page in January 2012 and has grown to more than 3,200 members. Don’t let the name throw you. They don’t limit discussions to alcohol related history, but they do generally hold their meetings in bars, where drinking and discussion are encouraged. Or not drinking and discussion. Teetotalers are welcome and encouraged to join.
The Detroit Drunken Historical Society does not have a web page, but you can view their meetup.com page even if you are not a registered user. There you can check out the variety of things they have been learning about Detroit history and their delivery methods for that education.
Recent topics of discussion include the Great Lakes Storm of 1913, ragtime, brewing, the Underground Railroad and boxing. You can also view upcoming events and I see that they are organizing a meetup about Rock City music history. As you can see in the music history entry, they reach out to their members for ideas and assistance
The presenters include historians, published authors, archivists and docents. Again, the organizers involve the members. In December they are kicking off a monthly Working Papers meeting where anyone working on a research project about Detroit can present their project for feedback. Besides guest speakers, they also go on walking tours, tour historical buildings and even go on kayak trips to see things from a different perspective.
Although many of their events are free (well, you do buy your own drinks), sometimes there is a small cover charge or a suggested donation. There is also sometimes a limit to the number of guests, usually in the case of a tour where it benefits the tour guide not to be spread too thin. If they have a big enough waiting list, they’ll try to add a second opportunity for that event.
What most impressed me is that this group appears to be very collaborative and to have evolved over time to meet the needs of its members. Members are encouraged to suggest venues and topics and also seem willing to tap their own contacts for venues or tours. Basically, they all love history, and Detroit, and want to share.
So what about those of us who don’t live anywhere near Detroit? Every city or town has stories, but often those stories are so much a part of our experience as a local that we don’t give it much thought. If you are interested in starting your own local history group to share those stories, you can contact the organizers of Detroit Drunken Historical Society at their meetup.com page. I reached out to them and received a nice email stating they would absolutely love to hear from anyone wanting to start their own city’s Drunken Historical Society. It sounds like a great way to meet new people and learn some of those things you didn’t know you wanted to know.