Beth is a public historian and historical consultant from the United States. She has experience in a number of heritage roles and has kindly given her time to share her experience and passion for history with me this week.
Hi Beth, Thank you for agreeing to take part in my Q and A feature. Firstly can you tell me a bit more about what you do and the various roles you have in the heritage sector?
Thank you, Laura for including me in your series. I am a public historian, specializing in working with museum collections. Currently I work as an independent consultant with contracts with two museums. One is the Tobacco Farm Life Museum which preserves and presents the history of farming in North Carolina from about 1880-1950 during a time of small farming families when tobacco was the major crop economically. The other museum is the Ava Gardner Museum which collects and interprets items related to Ava Gardner’s life. She was a movie star during the golden age of Hollywood, acting in films from the 1940s-1960s and beyond. She was born and raised in rural North Carolina though and as such that is where the museum is located. At both of these museums I am working with the collections of artifacts on projects such as inventory, access, and outreach.
When you were younger did you think this was the path you were going to take?
I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life until I went to college. I had always liked history in school, and was toying with the idea of majoring in Anthropology (which isn’t so different) but fell in love with history while taking an Introduction to Latin American history class in college. I did some research on the types of jobs people with history degrees have and when I read museums it just clicked. I had always loved museums. From then on I have pursued a career in museums by majoring in history, finding internships, and then getting my master’s degree in public history.
Would there be any advice you would give those who are looking to get into the heritage sector?
In the United States right now it is a very tough field, with few jobs, and even fewer that pay well. That sounds very negative, but is something I think students should be aware of. That being said, for those who love this field and want to pursue it, I recommend taking every opportunity to learn and differentiate yourself through internships and skill development. Be creative in where you can apply your skills. Historical research, interpretation, archival management, etc. all have applications in a variety of environments you wouldn’t normally expect. Prior to becoming a museum consultant I worked as an archivist for a golf course design company. So, think outside the box.
You have done some work at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum working on collections care and outreach. Why do you think it is important that museums reach out the local communities?
I feel that museums serve the public. Preserving the past and interpreting it to visitors is a civic service. Understanding our past helps us to be informed citizens with a better understanding of why things are the way they are and learning from the past in order to create a better future. A museum that is not in touch with its audience is a museum that is not fulfilling its mission. Outreach is so important in order to let your community know what you offer. But it is also important to listen when reaching out to learn how to better serve your community.
Why do you think History is important?
History records humanity’s failures and triumphs. It explains how we’ve come to now. I believe being informed historically is important to be a good citizen, in order to be well-informed for voting, understanding policy, and world events. I believe it’s also important for understanding things such as systemic racism, the impact of discrimination over time and how it affects people in the present.
What does History mean to you?
History to me is the ultimate story, a story of human choices, human lives, and human emotions. Standing in a historic building imagining lives lived there before, it’s humbling. It’s both terrifying and reassuring that so many people have lived before us. It’s kind of like how people talk about looking at the stars or out over the ocean and realizing how small they are in the grand scheme of things. History is that for me too.
Now for some fun questions. Who is your favourite person in history?
This kind of depends on when you ask me and who I’ve been reading about lately. What a hard question! So many cool, strong women come to mind like Amelia Earhardt, Dolores Huerta, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Abraham Lincoln has always been a favorite and he is my favorite president.
If you could go back in time where would it be and why?
Another very hard question. Really, I don’t think I would go back, knowing the negative about each era, but the colonial/Revolutionary era in the United States or colonial Latin America are both favorites of mine. I also enjoy more recent history like the 1920s-1960s.
You can follow Beth on her social media accounts:
- Instagram: @bethnevarezhistory
- Facebook: Beth Nevarez Historical Consulting
- LinkedIn: Beth Bullock Nevarez
- Twitter: @bethnevhistory
Her website can be found here: https://bethnevarez.com/