Scholars Speak: Finding Yourself in the Stories of Others

This post is part of our blog series “Scholars Speak,” which features writing from our 2023 cohort of Preservation Scholars. Click the link to learn more about this donor-funded program that aims to increase the diversity of voices in the Texas historical narrative by placing students from underrepresented cultural and ethnic backgrounds in paid, 10-week long summer internship positions at the Texas Historical Commission.

Scholars Speak: Finding Yourself in the Stories of Others

by Logan Dovalina, 2023 Preservation Scholar

The Texas Historical Commission’s oral history collection is fascinating. Unique and untold Texan stories are stored in the eleven-box repository that I’m honored to compile and organize as part of my internship with the History Programs Division. My favorite part is reading stories of fascinating Texans throughout the twentieth century. These recorded stories are about people of different backgrounds and from different regions within the state; nevertheless, each one inspires me through their stories.

Personally speaking, growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, I’ve learned a lot about my community and its history, and I continue to do so, especially as I work with THC’s oral history collection. For example, this collection holds information about author and historian T.R. Fehrenbach, who through his historical accounts, established himself as one of the preeminent Texan historians. But little did I know that Fehrenbach grew up in San Benito and Brownsville, two places that are very nearby where I’ve spent most of my life. His ancestral stories of the region represent much more about the borderlands than I ever knew, but most importantly, hearing about Fehrenbach’s childhood made me realize how similar yet completely different to mine it was. His account of citrus groves and palm trees represents fragments of what I grew up in, but for Fehrenbach, it was a complete immersion. The account of his childhood is completely fascinating to me because it’s simultaneously similar yet foreign. I understand the pieces but have never understood their completeness. Until now. While this is a microcosm of the overall collection, it is the most transformative to my understanding of the collection and most impactful to my personal experience as a young historian.

While studying history, I’ve found that overarching discipline is transformative because your story can be illuminated through others. Yet, you must look. The expansion of your identity is just within reach, and because of this project, that realization rings even more true.