Historians of the Future

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The Medallion

By Andy Rhodes, Managing Editor,The Medallion

For many Texas students, summer vacation means traveling with family and friends; others choose to forego this educational break via internships like the Texas Historical Commission’s Preservation Scholars program.

Preservation Scholars is a program of the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission. The FTHC raises philanthropic support for the placement of interns within the Texas Historical Commission for an eight-week full-time summer internship. The Friends of the THC is grateful to the Still Water Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for their generous support of the 2019 Preservation Scholars Program.

The Texas Historical Commission recently welcomed four college interns to Austin for nearly two months of summer school. Allan Johnson (Prairie View A&M University), Sydney Landers (University of Texas-Austin), Noel Larcher (University of Texas-Austin) and Jason Rivas (Texas State University) spent much of the summer working with THC staff on projects related to their fields of study. 

ALLAN JOHNSON, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERSITY  

Why did you decide to apply for the THC’s Preservation Scholars Program?

I chose to apply for the THC Preservation Scholars Program because I was encouraged by my professor William Batson and Anjali Zutshi (Friends of the THC) following a Prairie View A&M Career Fair. I was further motivated to pursue the program because of how the experience could attribute to my longstanding goal of using my degree to give back to my hometown, San Antonio, in a unique way. From the start of my academic career up until now, I have always wanted to make a lasting positive impact on my city, which is rich in culture and history but is often overlooked.

What factors did you consider when choosing your major?

When selecting my major (architecture), I first considered my interest in art, as I love drawing, painting, writing, and generally creating, so I felt it was imperative for me to be in an expressive career field. I believed that if I had a career that allowed me to observe and create art, I would be fulfilling my God-given purpose in life, making all other factors negligible. 

What goals are you hoping to accomplish during your internship this summer?

The goals I hope to accomplish as an intern are, to develop a cohesive understanding of how preservation can draw in tourists and residents, the impact preservation has on the local economy and how to incorporate modernization and preservation in a finely balanced way. Each of these are concepts that may be easily applied to my hometown to produce an even more attractive city, reaching the same height of recognition as Houston, Austin or any other popular Texas cities. In the week that I’ve interned here I have already touched on each of the concepts and am enjoying further enlightenment.

Why is Texas an interesting place to pursue a career in a history-related field?

Being a native Texan, I would first have to say that Texas is simply the best in every way! However, Texas is an interesting place to pursue a career in a history-related field because there’s just so much diverse history that you wouldn’t even know exists here. Every day I’m at the THC I’m learning interesting history about Texas as well as my Black heritage that I would otherwise have never known. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

In my free time that I spend at university, I like to draw sketches of a wide variety of things, write, and play basketball and soccer with friends. In the free time that I spend while I’m back home during interim breaks from school, I enjoy hanging out with my Parents and my two younger brothers Avery (11) and Austin (6), who always find a way to entertain me and make me laugh. My extended family is also very close knit, so I also enjoy spending time with Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and cousins, we all love enjoying each other’s company. 

 

SYDNEY LANDERS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-AUSTIN

Why did you apply for the THC’s Preservation Scholars Program?

This fall, I’m starting my Master of Science in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at Austin. I wanted to gain professional experience in the preservation field before I entered the program to get a head start. The Preservation Scholars program was local, compensated, and clearly structured to be an educational experience for interns; it was everything I envisioned in a dream opportunity.

What factors did you consider when choosing your major?

I love doing historical research and writing which lead me to my Bachelors of Art in Art History. I am pursuing the MSHP program because I believe preservation of underrepresented communities is important in community building and culture. I found architecture to be my passion within Art History and believe in nurturing the existing built environment in a sustainable manner in order to educate the public of its local history. I always feel like I’m doing a scavenger hunt and am shocked I get to do this for a job when I find it so exciting.

What goals are you hoping to accomplish during your internship this summer?

I hope to make tangible takeaways that contain all the research I’ve been conducting on Green Book Travel Guide sites in Austin. I’ve already gone to the State Library and Archives in addition to the Austin History Center to do research on original sources, which has been invigorating to say the least. In this, I hope to uncover stories and release new scholarship on untold narratives of East Austin’s African American history from the latter part of the Jim Crow era.

Why is Texas an interesting place to pursue a career in a history-related field?

Texas is interesting because of its contextual history undergoing a multitude of power shifts and changes. The state has a lot of history still to be told. I love that I can do research on underrepresented communities and shed a light on untold histories.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love spending time outside, whether it be hiking in the Greenbelt, kayaking at the lake, or swimming at Barton Creek. I am also a very crafty person and like scrapbooking, sketching, and painting. I’ve also been getting into history, preservation, and self-improvement podcasts whenever I drive long distances or have free time.

 

NOEL LARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-AUSTIN

Why did you apply for the THC’s Preservation Scholars Program?

When I saw the Preservation Scholars internship posting, I knew I'd found my summer dream job. Preserving histories is only possible when professionals (and community members) from diverse backgrounds and fields support one another. Archives are my passion, but I also want to learn more about how my niche relies on and helps the work of other preservationists. Being a Preservation Scholar in a complex state agency allows me that opportunity.

How did you choose your major? 

I picked my major (Plan II Honors) because I had no idea how to channel my interests into a focused course of study. Plan II is an interdisciplinary liberal arts major that led me to philosophy, literature, and sociology classes, but has also challenged me with math and physics. Learning how these seemingly random or unrelated classes actually relate and strengthen one another is part of what makes preservation so exciting to me; putting the puzzle pieces together feels really rewarding.

What goals are you hoping to accomplish during your internship this summer?

My biggest goal is to work with the THC's archeology records. When you take a look at several boxes of notes and reports by archeologists from all over the state, you'll notice that there isn't really a shared organization system or protocol. I've already witnessed a lot of fascinating findings in the archives vault. By lending the records some order, I hope others will have access to the important information they hold.

Why is Texas an interesting place to pursue a career in a history-related field?

Texas is a great place to work in history-related fields because the state as we know it—one of America's biggest economies and cultural-influencers by the name of Texas—is relatively new. The histories I interact with at my internship are directly related to many aspects of the environment that we currently live in. This newness means that our narratives can and do change as we uncover more perspective, details, and nuance. Being a part of that investigation is thrilling.

How do you like to spend your free time?

When I have free time, I like to ride my bike around Austin, read books, and write poems. 

 

JASON RIVAS, TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

Why did you apply for the THC’s Preservation Scholars Program? 

When opportunity knocks, you must open that door, or live with a sense of “what if” in life. In this program, the knock was an opportunity to learn about the work of the THC and how they take the tools public historians learn in the classroom and apply them in preserving our history. I gladly opened that door. 

How did you choose your major? 

I struggled in school and subsequently dropped out of high school and began working at a warehouse in my early 20s. Despite the hand I dealt myself, my family and friends knew I was better than this and encouraged me to try college. I discovered my interest in history as I read stories of individuals who overcame similar bad hands and made something of themselves. History gave me an opportunity to turn my bad hand into a full house of opportunities. I traveled to China, presented at conferences, and used my story to inspire students of similar backgrounds to understand that they’re capable of exceeding expectations, so long as they find their passion. 

What are you hoping to accomplish during your internship this summer? 

History is filled with stories—mostly centered around the elite and affluent and their influence on society. However, just as important are the lesser-known stories of the everyday people whose lives have indirectly influenced each passing generation. I’m interested in learning these stories and providing an outlet for them to be told and preserved. 

Why is Texas an interesting place to pursue a career in a history-related field

 “All roads lead to Rome” is an expression based on the reach of the Roman Empire. In some ways, the same can be said of Texas. The state is filled with opportunities for public historians to pursue their passions in history, whether through preservation, cultural resource management, oral histories, or historical research. If one is looking for an opportunity, there’s no better place to find one than Texas. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I collect and listen to vinyl records, particularly classic rock. Each record is a recorded history of the era they represent, the thoughts and attitudes of the period, and a window into the minds that influenced countless fans and listeners to become the people they are today. I also enjoy watching history-based films. These films are not produced to be historically accurate but to be representative of how our society remembers a historical moment or individual. That is an important factor any historian should consider when researching the influence of public memory on society.

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