Mark Edgington admits that he’s a busy man.
The Ripley native is completing his History degree at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, on top of working as a consultant for the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. and a pair of historical projects in Maryland.
But this past summer, Edgington came back home to work with Ripley Heritage Inc. to complete his practicum hours for his public history minor. He worked on the John Rankin House as well as an Ohio State Historical Marker project about Colonel Charles Young, the son of a freed slave who grew up in Ripley and went on to become only the third African-American to graduate from West Point and the highest ranking African-American officer in the U.S. Army until his death in 1922.
“I basically did all the application process for the state of Ohio and all the research that needed to go into it,” Edgington said. “I got it all put together and we sent that off in July to the Ohio History Connection.”
“I also worked on working with (Ripley Heritage Inc.) on a lot of best practices about the things that I’ve seen in the public history field here in the East Coast and in Washington D.C. and how they can update where they are and have their historical society move into this new era, which involves digital communication and social media.”
Edgington has an interesting history of his own. After graduating from Ripley-Union-Lewis-Union High School in 1995, he spent time as a musician, playing horns and vocals in Ska and punk bands, and he opened for big acts such as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less than Jake, and Real Big Fish.
He later joined the U.S. Army from 2005 through 2013 and served in its medical corps. He served a tour in Iraq and was part of the BRAC (Base Relocating and Closure) that moved Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Washington D.C. to Bethesda, Maryland.
For someone who has worked on a number of historical sites in Maryland and Washington D.C. in recent years, Edgington thinks that Brown County and Ripley residents are lucky to have internationally known sites like the Rankin House and John Parker House.
“I really think that Ripley has a great advantage of having both the Rankin and Parker Houses right there as two resources,” Edgington said. “Just from being at the Rankin House this summer, I was amazed at the number of people that came from different states and different countries.”
“It is nationally and internationally known, and I think sometimes people in Brown County and Ripley take it for granted.”
Edgington even said that the famous Ripley sites have even come up in textbooks he’s read while in college.
“I’ve had several different college classes where John Rankin and John Parker were actually mentioned in class as being these influential abolitionists,” Edgington said.”
Edgington said a major piece of his work with Ripley Heritage Inc. was moving them into the 21st century, working on developing a brand as well as their social media presence.
“It all intertwines with history and public history,” Edgington said. “Nowadays, historians have to walk a tight rope between being a historian and being P.T. Barnum and getting people to come to these things and fund them.”
Over the last eight months, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has been working to have the National Parks Service recognize the Parker House in their system. According to Edgington, the plan is for the NPS to take over the Parker House and run it.
“I think that would be really great to have that kind of recognition,” Edgington said. “If everything goes through and happens, I think it would be really amazing and a big honor, not only for the memory of John Parker but also for the town of Ripley to have a national park designation.”