Director of History and Research, Wilson History and Research Center,
Little Rock, Ark.
Dan Roberts is history’s muse: Dan Roberts’ love of history was practically pre-destined by his hometown. He grew up in South Portland, Maine, on a coastline dotted with old fortresses, and near the Portland Harbor shipyard where workers flocked to build the “liberty ships” that would establish United States naval dominance during World War II. He played on streets named for generals and presidents.
“You can imagine the mystique,” he says. “It was like growing up next to a castle.”
Roberts parlayed his passion into history degrees at Clark (a bachelor’s and master’s), and professional opportunities provided to him through the Strassler Center for Genocide and Holocaust Studies, including a three-month stint working at the Lidice Memorial and Museum in the Czech Republic.
He graduated into one of the bleakest economies in recent memory, but three months into his employment search, Roberts was named the director of history and research at the Wilson History and Research Center in Little Rock, Ark. The center is devoted to the preservation and display of 20th-century military uniforms and headgear.
Roberts is responsible for the historical messaging behind the museum’s exhibits, books and presentations; he oversees a team of researchers who identify and write about each of the 10,000 artifacts in the museum’s archives. His job has evolved into a history major’s dream, offering him many opportunities to travel, including a trip to the Airborne Museum in St. Mere Eglise where his museum gifted a WWII-era artillery spotter plane in honor of the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
Roberts’ latest project is a book he’s writing for the museum about an Italian-American GI named Basil Antonelli, who immigrated to the U.S. with his family in the 1920s, and enlisted in the service during World War II before being killed in the Battle of Monte Cassino, just miles from his ancestral village.
In researching and writing the book, Roberts met with the Antonelli family in New Jersey, then traveled with them to Italy to visit Basil’s birthplace of Sant’ Andrea, and Monte Cassino. The book recounting the soldier’s saga is expected to be published this April.