Preservation Education

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The Medallion

By Andy Rhodes, Managing Editor, The Medallion

Earlier this year, the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission welcomed six interns for nearly two months of online learning through the Preservation Scholars Program.

With unprecedented work requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Friends restructured this year’s program into remote internships. Representing universities across the state, the students spent much of the summer working with THC staff on projects related to their fields of study. 

WILLIAM POLLEY

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

I decided to apply for the program after talking to the THC representatives at a Prairie View A&M career fair. I decided to apply because the internship felt like the perfect fit for me. I had just taken a course in cultural heritage preservation, so I was ready to get out and use what I’d learned.

What factors did you consider when choosing your major?

I originally was going to pursue a master in business degree, but it just didn’t feel like me, so I started exploring other options. When I came across the community development program, it intrigued me because it was out of the norm for me, so I begin researching the program. I found out Prairie View was the only institution that offered the program in this region. The educational aspect of doing real work in the community resonated with me, and I am an action-oriented person.

What goals did you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I was hoping to learn how to impact African American communities in historic preservation, and I did just that. The THC provided me with excellent guidance; I worked with and learned from an architect, economic development specialist, and gained a new colleague in Gabe Ozuna. I got the chance to use my voice to help the African American community.

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

Texas is such a great place to pursue a career in history because we are so different within every region, which gives us a chance to learn from one another. There are also so many untold stories from underrepresented groups in Texas that have yet to be discovered. Texas is full of different cultures.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I do a lot of reading, and I like to spend my free time helping youth from my area learn the art of running. I plan to continue training myself so that I can try out for the USA team. I recently went plant-based, so lately I have been doing a lot of experimenting with recipes to try to make my favorite meals and desserts into vegan dishes. When I have the time, I also love to skateboard.

 

LEZLIE HERNANDEZ

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

I heard about the Historical Marker Program from previous preservation scholar Jason Rivas. I loved the idea of researching stories while using my skills to create something meaningful and long lasting, like historical markers. I also applied because this internship would be a great way to get exposure to preservation. 

What factors did you consider when choosing your major? 

When I was deciding my majors (history and geography), I wanted to choose something that I could be passionate about and interested in. I wanted to be challenged and become a part of a larger conversation. I decided that history did all those things. History reminds us of victories, tragedies, and what it means to be human. I also decided that geography shared some of these characteristics. Knowing where things are, how the environment affects events, and how cultures interact with others is central to understanding history. I am also seeking a teaching certification in both subjects.  

What goals did you hope to accomplish during your internship? 

My biggest goal was to learn from others. The THC is filled with many knowledgeable and experienced people. I wanted to pick their brains and learn about how they got where they are. Many THC employees used to be educators, archivists, and museum curators. By listening to their stories, I can learn about the many ways to become a part of historic preservation. 

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

I grew up in Nebraska and its associated corn fields. When I arrived in Texas, I began to immerse myself in its history. In a few short years, I learned that Texas is vibrant, diverse, and proud of its culture. Texas is interesting to me because there is much to learn and much I don’t know. The people of Texas are ready to use their voices and share their stories. I hope to be a facilitator of those voices and rich heritages. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love reading. I understand that it’s basically staring at a dead tree and hallucinating, but I can't help it; I'm a sucker for historical fiction and adventure novels. I can sit down and read vignette compilations with a cup of coffee. When I'm feeling classy, I even like to read non-fiction conceptual books about human behavior.

 

FARAH MERCHANT

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

I saw the THC's Preservation Scholars Program as an opportunity to do good and enact change. I have always wanted to use my voice in a positive way and bring awareness to serious issues. The program offered me an outlet to write history in a fair and honest way, share the stories of underrepresented groups, and create accessible content.   
 

What factors did you consider when choosing your major? 

When I started college, I considered changing my major many times, in part due to pressure from my family to choose a “practical” career option. However, after taking my first English class sophomore year, I knew English was the correct major for me. I enjoyed how the major encapsulated different disciplines such as rhetoric, journalism, and satirical writing while still focusing heavily on literature.  


What goals did you hope to accomplish during your internship?  

I hoped to write stories that resonate with individuals and represent the voice of marginalized groups. When looking through the THC blog, I noticed there are no stories of Asian Americans and much of what is included is repeated and rudimentary. I wanted to change that by showcasing their work and influence. 


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

Texas has such a rich culture and history that I could spend years reading, researching, and learning everything about Texas history and still not know it all. It’s so expansive that each region looks different and adds a new perspective to being Texan. The diversity makes Texas a unique and enriching place to study, and a place that I’m glad I got to explore during this internship.  
 

How do you like to spend your free time? 

For fun, I enjoy walking my dogs, reading in the sun, and engaging in any creative outlet that allows me to express myself. I try to spend my time outside doing the things I love, but don’t always get the opportunity to do due to school and work. However, realistically, many times I just listen to music, watch a movie, and de-stress.  

 

GABRIEL OZUNA

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

I first learned about the THC when I discovered the Historical Marker Program in college. I soon realized that the THC oversaw many different projects, many of which aligned with my interests. After college, I became involved with the Texas Tropical Trail Region and the Hidalgo County Historical Commission. Thanks to a scholarship from the former, I was able to attend the 2020 Real Places Conference in Austin. So, when I applied to graduate school and became eligible for the Preservation Scholars Program, I knew this was how I wanted to spend my summer before starting classes in the fall.

What factors did you consider when choosing your major?

I have always loved history, which I consider to be a primary lens through which people learn to understand one another and the world they’ve inherited. As an undergraduate at Yale, I was particularly fortunate to have studied under some incredible historians associated with the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders, including Jay Gitlin and John M. Faragher. I hope to be able to apply concepts I learned from them about the North American frontier to my graduate studies at UTRGV, and to help preserve the unique cultural heritage of South Texas.

What goals did you hope to accomplish during your internship?

My main aspiration for this internship was to familiarize myself with the world of historic preservation. So far, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with division staff working on a number of fascinating projects. I am particularly grateful to be interning at the Texas Main Street Program. They have done an incredible job mentoring me and allowing me to help on a couple of important projects in Eagle Pass and Texarkana. My hope is that this knowledge and these connections will aid me in whatever future career I choose to pursue.

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

Texans love their history, but so much of this state’s stories have been overlooked or have gone completely untold. I applaud recent efforts by the THC and other state historical organizations to remedy this oversight, but there is so much more work to be done. As a historian, I look forward to researching and retelling the stories, particularly those of the South Texas frontier.

How do you like to spend your free time?

When I’m not talking about the Rio Grande Valley, I enjoy reading, discussing, and debating all manner of historical, theological, and political topics. I also love baseball, tracking severe weather, and driving the backroads of South Texas.

 

RICHARD QUIROZ

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

I decided to apply for the program after seeing the multiple opportunities available to gain applicable experience. With my love for history, I knew that this program will be beneficial long term in developing professional skills while utilizing what I learned from academics so far. It has been a rewarding experience to learn the daily operations of the different divisions that are crucial to the THC. 

What factors did you consider when choosing your major?  

My major is English with a concentration in literary studies, and a minor in history along with TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification. I developed an interest in these fields simultaneously with my love for literature and enjoyment in listening to oral histories from family members. As a result, I found that I greatly enjoy assisting other individuals in accessing, networking, exploring, and researching information. 

What goals did you hope to accomplish during your internship?

As my first internship, this program has allowed me to gain insight in the professional career space before graduation, which is a very beneficial opportunity. Community support for the commission interested me from the beginning as funding and community outreach is highly critical for any organization, commission, or even university department to operate in. 

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

Texas history hosts multiple cultural perspectives, and stories which many have yet to be included in our mainstream narrative delivered through our educational institutions. The significant events, cultural customs, and personal beliefs shape the way memory plays in our local communities. It is crucial to not only continue teaching history, but also incorporate the history of underrepresented communities that has always been present and will always be present in Texas. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I usually spend my free time reading and writing—my favorite genres include horror, mystery, and (not surprisingly) history and historical fiction. I also enjoy listening to podcasts, and as a commuter to my university, this is a wonderful pastime to have. When not busy diving into the world of mysteries and the macabre, I dive into the world of cooking, which I found to be equally perplexing at times especially when using wrong measurements. 

 

KATHERINE BANSEMER

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

I heard about the program from one of my friends in graduate school who participated last summer. He explained the program’s commitment to diversity and told me about the exciting projects he got to work on while at the THC. Later that day I looked into the application process and submitted my own application soon after! 

What factors did you consider when choosing your major?

I have always had a passion for history, and I want to share that passion and excitement with others. Public history is really the perfect fit for me as I get to work with lots of different people and explore meaningful topics. 

What goals did you hope to accomplish during your internship?

I am really hoping to learn more about the preservation field and how I can participate. I hope to take what I’ve learned from graduate school, expand upon it, and apply it to my project. 

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

Texas is not only a unique state with a diverse history, but Texans are very involved and passionate about their history. It’s exciting to live in a state with such a commitment to and excitement about the past. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I’m a competitive person, and I enjoy pushing myself to achieve new goals. I have found fitness and specifically weight training to be a fun and rewarding outlet to challenge myself. 

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