Tukufu Zuberi - Interview

Little-known facts about the history detective who never leaves home without his laptop and journal.


What do you like most about being a History Detective?
History consists of our ideas about the past. Being a History Detective has given me a unique opportunity to examine the everyday history of everyday people. People make history, and being a History Detective has allowed me to talk to the people who make history relevant. We cannot live in the past.

What do you like least about being a History Detective?
I do not have enough time to really get into each story. If it was a perfect world I would spend about two months on each story.

What advice would you give someone interested in the field of historical research?
Read and look behind the facts, but if you don't find what you are looking for, look under the facts. If you are still frustrated in your search, look around the facts. Be enthusiastic and keep hope alive. I understand and have sympathy for the ideal of cold, scientific history; but this impartial history must not be allowed to degenerate as it has so often into insensibility to the human condition. The scientific examination of the human condition must always consider the social context in which we live.

What is the thing you do most in this job?
I search through archives, read documents; track people down and try to get the story behind the object right. For me the important issue is the story. Objects are important, but I am more concerned about the story behind the object.

How do you approach a mystery?
Try to understand the social context that would produce the mystery.

What's the first thing you do?
Check the authenticity of the possible story.

What areas would you describe as your speciality?
The social context of the mystery and the related object.

Is there a puzzle or mystery you dream of solving?
Good question.

If you could leave a time capsule now to be opened in 2104, what would you put in it?
W.E.B. Du Bois, "Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880".

Where's the most interesting place you've traveled to as a History detective?
New Orleans.

What do you never leave home without?
My laptop and journal.