Interns get hands-on history lessons

June 4, 2014

history4A professor may make history come alive in class, but an internship is helping three Bryan students get their hands dirty with local history.

From left, Leila Barker, Brian Penny, and Olivia Eanes work in the Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum in the Rhea County Courthouse. Leila Barker, Olivia Eanes, and Brian Penny, all junior history majors, are enrolled in an internship with Rhea County Historian Patricia Guffey at the Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum in Dayton. The three are helping Ms. Guffey sort and catalog documents collected by the late Bettye Broyles, an archeologist and former Rhea County historian who left her estate to the Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society.

“This is our second sorting of the Bettye Broyles papers, notes, and records,” Leila explained. “When we started, they were in giant tubs of random papers. The first time through we did a rough sort based on the family name, place, or topic. Now we’re going through the boxes and putting the same types of information together.”

She and Olivia began the process with Ms. Guffey in the spring semester of 2012, worked through the fall semester, and were joined by Brian this semester. “The goal is to make all the material available to the people of Rhea County or those who have a connection to Rhea County and want to do research,” Olivia said. “We’re a long way from that point, but you’ve got to start at the beginning if you want to get it done.”

Brian found out about the work Leila and Olivia were doing and his curiosity drove him to join them. “This is the sort of work I think I want to get into at some point,” he said. “I had not heard about the exhibits down here [in the courthouse museum] so I thought I’d check out the exhibits as well as get hands-on experience and course credit.”

For their academic credit in the Fall 2012 semester, Olivia developed an exhibit on the life of Ms. Broyles, who was a member of one of the early families in Rhea County and was one of the first women archeologists to work in the United States. Leila wrote a paper on Ms. Broyles based on their research.

“I’ve learned a lot about the history of Rhea County,” Olivia said. “That has made me appreciate where I go to school more. It made me realize this is my home for four years, and it’s good to know the history of the area. It helps explain why things are as they are today.”

Leila added, “I’ve learned how much dedication it takes to do history. It takes a lot of determination and perseverance to stick through a project.”

Ms. Guffey said she has been very pleased with the students. “They have been so knowledgeable. I can tell them one thing and they’re right on it. They know what has to be done and have gotten their hands dirty to do it.

“They have been a tremendous asset to the Bettye Project” as she calls the effort to catalog the papers. “They have cut the time it would take to do this project in half from what it would have taken for me to do myself.

“This has been very valuable to the historical society, and I hope we can continue this good partnership with the college.”