Colin Zimmerman recently started a new job as a Military Historian for the Friends of Washington Crossing Park, but he’s a familiar face around the park.
“I worked here from 2016 to 2018 as an historical interpreter, and I’m thrilled to be back in this newly created role,” Zimmerman says. “History started out as an interest for me, then turned into a hobby, and eventually became a passion. To me, history is the most fascinating thing in the world and this park is a national treasure.”
Zimmerman is currently in the final year of completing his doctoral degree in American History, with a focus on early America and the American Revolution. In his new role at the park, he will have a variety of responsibilities.
“A big part of this position will involve academic work, research and publishing,” he says. “The neat thing about the crossing is that it’s so well known, but a lot of people don’t necessarily know the details of what happened here. And the peripheral parts of the story need to be told.”
“What influenced Washington’s decision to cross that night? What series of events and personalities transpired that created this moment? What was happening in Newtown at the time, what was happening in Burlington? I view this as a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. The core of the story is there, but I want to fill in all of the other pieces as best I can.”
Zimmerman will also be integral to enhancing the park’s living history programming as America gears up for its 250th birthday in 2026.
“It’s our intention to bring more interaction to the park, hopefully with a dedicated group of employed living historians who will mix with the public and bring history alive for them,” he says. “That’s how I got into history as a kid, by visiting places like Jamestown, Williamsburg and Fort Ticonderoga. There is no reason we can’t do here what they do at those sites.”
“The 250th should be the biggest event to ever happen in this park and we’re going to go all out,” he adds enthusiastically. “I want people to come here and be wowed.”
To achieve that “wow factor,” Zimmerman will oversee the development of additional public and educational programs focused on the park’s unique military history and its impact on world history. This additional programming may come in the form of new living history events, new school programs, or new interpretive materials – likely all of the above.
“When people think of America’s 250th birthday, I want them to think of this park and these bunch of crazy Americans who crossed a frozen river and marched on Trenton,” he says. “Like Gettysburg and the Civil War or Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars, I want this park to be front-of-mind when people think of the American Revolution.”
Zimmerman says there are many notable sites associated with the Revolution – Valley Forge, Saratoga and Yorktown to name a few – but he places Washington Crossing Historic Park above all of them in importance.
“What happened here defined us as a nation,” he says. “These soldiers were part of a withering army, but they came together and showed the world that hope wasn’t lost. A lot of what we call the American spirit was born right here on the Delaware River. To do what they did was impossible, yet somehow they did it.”
Zimmerman agrees with the old saying that if you like what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.
“This isn’t a 9:00 to 5:00 job for me, it’s a 24/7 thing…it’s my world,” Zimmerman says simply. “It’s like I’m not even coming to work!”