By Andy Rhodes, The Medallion Managing Editor
Why take a break from school when there are so many learning opportunities available? That was the mindset of Lara Fields, a Houston native entering her junior year at Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr College.
Fields spent the summer absorbing the real-world experiences of professional preservationists as part of the Texas Historical Commission’s (THC) Diversity Internship program. In the process, she learned about day-to-day activities associated with jobs and projects related to preserving Texas’ history.
Fields recently answered a series of questions about her interest in historic preservation and plans for the future.
Why did you decide to pursue this internship opportunity with the THC?
I felt a strong connection to the projects offered by the Diversity Internship and to the mission of the THC in general. Recently, I’ve been eager to explore how archeology is used as a tool for community engagement. When I was introduced to the position, I was struck by how well the goals of the program fit with my personal interests in public archeology.
How have your past experiences (school, work, volunteer activities, etc.) prepared you for interning with the agency?
Through my courses I’ve been exposed to topics ranging from contemporary archeological theory to questions concerning cultural heritage destruction. These topics and others have made me critically assess the responsibility of archeologists toward public and non-academic audiences. I also recently participated in my very first excavation, which occurred at the site of Tell Abraq in the UAE! These activities have increased my technical skill-set and have provided me with a visceral appreciation for the multifaceted, difficult, and rewarding nature of studying the human past.
What factors did you consider when choosing your major?
Since I was very little I’ve been fascinated by archeology, especially of the ancient Near East. This initial curiosity strongly influenced my desire to study Classical and Near Eastern Archeology at Bryn Mawr College. During my freshman year, I also became interested in studying Anthropology more broadly. I feel that the discipline is crucial for understanding archeology in the wider context of the social sciences.
What are you looking forward to accomplishing during your internship this summer?
I’m very excited to take part in the Undertold Historical Markers project. Through this project I hope to learn more about the Jewish heritage of Texas. The Jewish community has an extensive legacy in the state, but it is not well known, even to those within the Jewish community itself. I hope by educating myself in this underrepresented history, I can in turn educate others on the richness and diverse nature of the Jewish experience in Texas.
Why is Texas an interesting place to pursue a career in a history-related field?
Texas is a landscape that has an extensive historic and prehistoric heritage. This rich heritage incorporates the narratives of a diverse array of people, which has created a broader cultural flavor that is wholly unique to the state. It is this distinct cultural legacy that fuels my interest in Texas’ past, present, and how my story fits into its overarching historical narrative.
How do you anticipate using your experience at the THC in the future?
Because of the THC’s commitment to community outreach, I look forward to pursing projects that benefit both my personal curiosity and the community at large. I believe that archeology has the capacity to spread lessons of inclusion. As I grow in my career, I hope to establish projects that bring individuals together through a shared sense of history that celebrates the diversity of the human experience, past and present.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to read. During the academic year I don’t have a lot of free time to do pleasure reading, so now that summer has arrived I set aside many an afternoon to unwind with a good book. Recently I have been neck deep in Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, which has kept me very entertained. Next on my list is The Story of B.
The THC’s Diversity Internship program builds early interest in historic preservation, specifically among students from underrepresented ethnic groups. The program is funded solely by private gifts. To make a donation, please visit the Friends of the THC website.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of The Medallion.