Cassie Bennett interned and volunteered a few times at our Sam Rayburn House Museum State Historic Site (SRHM). After graduating from Bonham High School in 2006, she volunteered 12 hours a week during the summer. She returned the following summer as an intern and earned course credit at Stephen F. Austin State University. Over winter break in 2008–09, she returned again as a volunteer. She is currently finishing a master’s degree in Public History at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and received a graduate research assistantship at the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation. Although Bennett has transitioned away from an emphasis on museum studies, she now focuses on small town and rural preservation and heritage tourism development. At the end of the year, she will move to the Raleigh, N.C. area to live with family and begin her job search.
“I know this is silly, and probably embarrassing (and I don't care!), but one memory sticks out. One day, I was up in Mr. Sam's room working on the museum's inventory. The thing I find so special about the SRHM is that it feels like it is still lived in... and because of that, all the drawers are filled with personal items. So on that day, I got to Mr. Sam's undergarments and realized I was holding Sam Rayburn's underwear. The underwear worn by the former U.S. Speaker of the House and a man third in line to the presidency! I still tell this story, and people think it is weird, but it captures the uniqueness of the SRHM. There are a hundred tacks in the junk drawers (each accessioned), toothbrushes in the bathrooms, and cooking appliances all used by a single family, not just a collection of artifacts pulled together.
I learned so much working under Anne [Ruppert] and Carole [Stanton]. I know the point of an internship is to get real experience, and I got that, but I also got mentors in the early stages of my education. The experiences at the SRHM—from researching and writing the artifact histories, accessioning photographs, helping preserve artifacts, and giving tours—helped narrow my interests and gave me skills that continue to help me. Because I interned at the SRHM at the end of my freshman year of college, it set me on a track that kept snowballing in positive ways. I gained experiences there that helped me get jobs at the Stephen F. Austin State University Center for Regional Heritage Research and the East Texas Research Center. After I graduated, I worked at the Stone Fort Museum in Nacogdoches until I started my graduate studies at MTSU in 2011. These combined experiences have given me a broad base of experience (museums, archives, and historic preservation) that influences my approach to heritage development.”
Sara Breeden worked as a 2010 summer intern at the SRHM. She just completed her Master of Library and Information Science degree at Louisiana State University and is excited to be considering a few new opportunities as an Information Professional.
“Besides getting fresh peaches and tomatoes, I loved the hands-on experience that I gained at SRHM. My favorite was treating an area rug for an infestation of carpet beetles. I was really interested in learning more about the technical side of caring for historical items and Anne [Ruppert], the curator there, was sure to give me as many opportunities as possible to do so!”
This is one in a series of “Memory Lane” blog posts in which former THC employees, commissioners, interns, and partners recall their favorite moments at the agency. It’s part of our “60 Years in 60 Days” campaign on Facebook and Twitter, which began on Sept. 19 and leads up to Nov. 17, the 60th anniversary of the THC.
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