Seeing History

In November 2010, Paul Bulmahn flew aboard a helicopter over the Gulf of Mexico. Bulmahn, chief executive officer of ATP Oil & Gas, peered through the chopper’s window. He looked out over the vast body of water beneath him and saw various types of oil rigs and drill platforms. Some were in use, some were not. Some were new or newer, others were quite old, dating back to the 1940s.

Bulmahn stared at the sight and said, “You can see the entire history of the offshore industry down there.”

60 years of a slice of industry, encapsulated in water. Still working, all of it meant for use in the daily world, none of it intended to be historical in nature. And yet, it was and is, in a sense, living history.

I think Bulmahn’s words are thought-provoking. The entire history, down there. Think about the places where you spend the most time. Can you see the history of the thing, down there, over there, across there? What pieces or layers of history do you see immediately around you? Right now, as I’m writing this, I see a laptop computer, the small insignia of a wireless connection, an ink pen, a newspaper, a burning candle, a handmade cup, and a 100-inch projection screen. I’d say that covers quite a bit of historical ground.