Interning at the Thomasville History Center: An interview with Kayla Reeves (BA 2024)

Thu, 04/04/24
Kayla Reeves

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I will be graduating this semester, which is exciting. I am a History major with a minor in Political Science.  I love American history, especially the history of the American south. I am fascinated by religious as well as gender history. In my Honors thesis I am looking at conservative women’s organizations in the south, for example, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Confederacy. I have written research papers on the Lost Cause movement in the American south, and examined how the Confederacy has been memorialized, especially in connection with religion and gender.

I am planning on going to graduate school. I have applied to a few Ph.D. programs. My end goal is to become a professor.  

What got you interested in history?

I have always liked history. As a kid I read a lot of historical fiction, and then I moved on to regular history books. My family was big on history. I have to credit them the most with getting me into history. History was not very emphasized in my school. When I came to FSU, I was an undecided major, and it was taking History classes at college that made me want to study history.

What is your internship about?

I am interning at the Thomasville History Center in Thomasville, Georgia. I tend to go there on Fridays as I don’t have any classes that day. It’s an hour’s drive, and I will put in an 8-to-5 workday once a week. This is my second semester as an intern. My Honors thesis with Dr. Piehler focuses on Thomasville as a case study, and so I had been going there to look at their records to decide what specifically I wanted to work on. Dr. Piehler told me that the Center was looking for an intern to catalogue a set of historical documents, and that they had received a grant to hire an intern. I ended up getting the position.

In the beginning, I was cataloging records of all kinds of buildings, historic homes and shops. Another local history organization had written the histories of many of Thomasville’s buildings back in the 1960s and 70s, and they donated their records to the Center. It was my job to put all these records into an online database, so that people could access the material online.

What sort of records were these? 

I digitized a mixture of records. Handwritten notes, photographs, photocopies of photographs, blueprints of houses, and so on. The reason why a building was recorded was because a notable person had lived there. The information that had been gathered was on both the house and the family. They bring out the boxes with the files that I need to work on. I summarize all the information, assign a call number, and enter that into their database.

After I worked my way through those donated records, I started transcribing and uploading letters from a Civil War soldier who wrote to his wife who was living in Thomasville. 

My job is purely computer based. I was a bit nervous in the beginning about making mistakes. I did not want to record anything wrong or forget to enter important information. But the head archivist explained to me how to do things, and how to use their software program. The THC has had volunteers and interns in the past, so they already had guidelines and training material available. And, of course, every time I had questions, I just asked.

What has been the best thing about the internship? 

It has been very interesting being able to focus on the history of one town. In History classes, we usually focus on the national or international levels and look at large-scale events. Being able to focus on a smaller scale has provided me with a totally new perspective. Sometimes the histories of the Thomasville houses are very similar, given that a neighborhood might have been built at the same time. After a while that can get repetitive, yet my interest has not flagged.

Sometimes, I am drawn into the museum side at work and that is fun too. I got to help with staging a wedding dress from the 1890s, which was a difficult task. The material was old and fragile, and it wasn’t easy to put it on the mannequin. I have never worked with objects before, and I am grateful for getting an insight into the practices of museum displays.

It has been a really great experience. It has helped me see how a physical archive works, as so far, I have only used online archives. The in-person experience was amazing - especially working with old documents. It has made history feel very real, and having this experience will definitely help me in graduate school.