Interpreting the Past
Tordis Isselhardt's first focus was foreign culture, with bachelor's and master's degrees in Spanish from Bennington and Middlebury, and years studying in Spain, France, and Germany. Back in the US, she taught nursery school at the Gesell Institute in New Haven and French grades 5-12 in Aspen, Colorado, and spent time working in data processing using computer languages. By the late 1960s Tordis was back in Bennington, Vermont. No teaching or computer jobs were available, but a 35-room 1865 Victorian family home in North Bennington was to begin public life, and she became its first director. Thus began her career of helping people learn from and care for the past through historical interpretation and historic preservation. She believes that, "We are surrounded by what happened, and may with a little help, be able to imagine other times" ... and offers that help.
In 1984, she established Images from the Past, producing photographic cards with interpretive captions that prompt memory trips and offer glimpses of history. By 1992, Tordis also was working with museums, historic sites, and other organizations to help them develop their own site-specific products to educate, entertain, and produce income. She has presented workshops to and consulted with groups ranging from innkeepers and realtors, to museum store managers and site interpreters.
Images from the Past began to publish books a year later. They range from Lake Champlain: A Natural History to Boston's French Secrets: Guided Walks That Reveal Boston's French Heritage to Searching for Thoreau: On the Trails and Shores of Wild New England. Tordis stresses "we publish history in ways that help people see it for themselves." She describes the books as interpretive exhibits between covers that tell regionally based stories of national and sometimes international interest. Finnigans, Slaters, and Stonepeggers: A History of the Irish in Vermont is Images from the Past's latest book.
Tordis sees her role akin to an orchestra conductor choosing projects that build on strengths and accommodate weaknesses. She avoids the template model and works with each organization to identify the story it wants to tell, the audience(s) it wants to reach, ways to create a successful reader experience, and the message it wants to convey. Teams of author, editor, designer, and indexer create richly illustrated books that bring people and places to life for readers.
Tordis uses her interpretive skills in volunteer activities as well: on the Vermont Scenery Preservation Council, the US and International Commissions on Monuments and Sites, and as board member of the Independent Publishers of New England. She has chaired the US/ICOMOS Cultural Tourism Committee and is their appointed Expert Member to the International Cultural Tourism Committee.
to our web site. We invite you to browse our catalog and learn
about our publishing services. We hope you will find our special
combination of Regional and Cultural History to your liking.
well-researched, richly illustrated books, Images from the Past
brings people and places to life for readers. "Terrifically
entertaining and informative popular history," as one reviewer
put it, but since our books are well grounded in solid research,
it is also history you can trust. Our award-winning books shed new
light on familiar historical events and personalities - and bring
neglected ones out from the shadows. We seek every opportunity
to present the rich complexity of life of other times from the perspective
of our own.
from the Past also provides interpretive publishing services. In
partnership with museums and historical organizations, we both extend
their visitors' experience and bring their site's interpretive message
to armchair travelers. We help them develop their own income-generating
products that interpret history to the public with images and information.
1980, Tordis Ilg Isselhardt formed a business partnership with Robert
L. Weichert to manage, care for, and use a collection of glass plate
and cut film negatives, vintage photographs and ephemera that Weichert
had gathered and created, including the acquisition in 1958 of the
contents of a former photography studio in Bennington, Vermont.
Tordis brought curatorial and interpretive expertise to the partnership
from her nine years as Executive Director of the 1865 Victorian
Park-McCullough Historic House Museum in North Bennington, Vermont.
After Weichert's death in 1983, she assumed sole responsibility
for the collection.
1984, as Images from the Past, she began producing photographic
postcards and notes in a distinctive sepiatone or, for the most
modern pictures, duotone black and white. Images and interpretive
captions were carefully chosen to prompt memory trips and offer
rewarding glimpses of history. In 1993, Images from the Past
began to publish books, as larger interpretive exhibits between
covers that tell regionally based stories of national and even international
interest. Teams of author, editor, designer, and indexer are responsible
for the growing list of richly illustrated books that bring people
and places to life for our readers.
aspect of our activities, interpretive publishing services, is a
direct result of Tordis's hands-on experience during a long and
diverse career as an interpretive specialist. Since 1992,
Tordis has been working with museums, historic sites, and other
organizations to develop their own site-specific products that educate,
entertain, and produce income. She has presented workshops
to and consulted with groups ranging from innkeepers and realtors,
to museum store managers and site interpreters. In January 2003 Tordis
earned certification as a Certified Interpretive Guide from the National
Association for Interpretation.
we work to assure that history has its place and place has its history.