Students Help Preserve Texas History During Summer Internships

Undergraduate and Graduate Students Accepted into the Preservation Scholars Program Intern with the THC

Since 2007, the Preservation Scholars Program has offered students hands-on experience with historic preservation work during summer internships. The program is funded by the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission, and thanks to the generous support of our donors, we were able to offer seven internship positions this summer. Over the course of the 10-week internship, students work with THC staff to move forward important THC initiatives. We’re excited to introduce you to the 2021 cohort and their projects.

Nana Acheampong, University of Texas at Austin—Community Heritage Development Division: Working with THC staff members Jamie Crawley and Alan Cox, I’ve been researching Paul Quinn College in Waco and its currently vacant William Decker Johnson Hall as part of a team that hopes to create plans for its rehabilitation. Known as the “Athens on the Brazos,” it was the first historically Black college or university (HBCU) in Texas and still exists today in Dallas. The building itself is historically significant because it was built by William S. Pittman, one of the first working Black architects in Texas. It’s been great building a project like this around the community that lives around it. Talking to its various stakeholders has really opened my eyes to the complexity of rehabilitation projects and introduced a lot of interesting, open-ended questions that have no real answers. For instance, how much does having ample funding for a project matter if there is no community involvement or leadership to push it forward and keep the legs under it?

Paola Alonso Guerrero, Texas Woman’s University—History Programs Division: I am working with Stephen Cure in the History Programs Division of the THC. My internship entails taking the first steps to make the THC’s collection of oral histories/interviews more accessible. I am currently working on organizing and labeling the current collection of interviews in the THC Library by adding their archival information into a spreadsheet. After documenting this information, I will investigate the costs of audio conversion, transcription, and archival storage services so that the public will be able to access these interviews. I am enjoying this project a lot; I find it meaningful to know that I am playing a role in making the stories of people, places, and cultures available to others to learn from.

Lily George, University of Texas at Dallas; José Contreras Preservation Scholar—Historic Sites Division: My project is focused on the oral history archives at Varner-Hogg Plantation. This summer I have been working on adding captions to video interviews of Varner-Hogg staff and community members from the ’80s and ’90s. I am transcribing these interviews and adding them to Varner-Hogg’s oral history catalogue. I am working with my passionate supervisors Angela Pfeiffer and Catherine Jalbert, and we are excited this project is bringing forth new voices and stories to be included in Varner-Hogg’s history, as well as working toward making them accessible in the future!

Ashli Lucio, Ashland University—History Programs Division: In addition to meeting with various employees with the Texas Historical Commission to learn more about their jobs, I have been working with Sarah McCleskey in the Historical Markers Program. My internship this summer has focused on researching and writing inscriptions for new markers across the state, like for the Turkey Day Classic. However, I also have the opportunity to work on the Thematic Marker Maps on the THC’s website. I updated the Hispanic History in Texas Thematic Marker Map with about 200 additional markers highlighting Hispanics in Texas, and I created the Asian American Heritage Map to highlight the history of Asian Texans. Recently, I had the opportunity to refinish the historical marker at Camp Mabry. I love how my internship offers me the opportunity to learn about unique stories and share them with the public at the same time!

Alejandra Navarrete, Texas State University—Archeology Division: My project this summer has focused on working with the Archeology Division’s Tribal Liaison, Marie Archambeault, in their outreach efforts with the 29 federally recognized tribes with ties to Texas. These efforts included attending meetings with tribal representatives, hearing their concerns, and working with my supervisor on how to address these concerns. I have also been learning about all the legal nuances involving the tribes and archeological work, such as NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act), as well as developing content that will be of assistance to Tribal Historic Preservation Offices.

Mónica Palacios, University of Texas at San Antonio—History Programs Division: I am working with Leslie Wolfenden on the African-American Travel Guide and Mapping Project, focusing on sites in San Antonio. African-American travel guides became incredibly useful when segregation was legally enforced and had the potential to lead to violence. Therefore, having a network of welcoming businesses was helpful to travelers. I have selected sites that not only provided a sense of security for their patrons but also demonstrate how San Antonio’s African American community was successful in both business and civil rights activism. My final project is a poster that includes a little history of each site, and this will be available to the public via the Texas Historical Commission’s website.

Kennedy Wallace, Prairie View A&M University; Clay Preservation Scholar—Community Heritage Development Division: Thus far, I have been working on gathering information to create a diversity toolkit. This diversity toolkit would be a resource for Texas Main Street managers to assist them with inclusivity for business owners, property owners, and stakeholders of downtown communities. The process of gathering information includes interviewing Main Street Managers as a way to learn of their needs and expereinces, researching the demographics of Main Street Communities, and gathering and learning from scholarly articles for a deeper understanding of sustainable economic practices, engagement, and Texas histories.