Monthly Archives: February 2014

History of the Everyday

By Natalie Walker

The word “history” conjures up ideas of grand battles, massive world wars, famous speeches, and prominent men and women of the past.  Less often do people associate history with the houses and buildings they rush past on their morning commute to work.  Unless someone is particularly interested in architectural history on the local level, those houses and buildings are not usually associated with the everyday citizens’ idea of “history.”  As an intern for the OHP I have begun to appreciate the local Kansas City history and to appreciate the history of places that often seem so “everyday.”

marriottWhile writing and researching these  site histories I find myself imagining the location of the building and when I see the actual picture, I am amazed that I have driven by it numerous times without realizing its significance.  Often times, the site is a mansion that I have seen and wondered about, but never took the time to research.  As I delve deeper into Kansas History I am able to make connections to the places with the modern day world.  For example, I once stayed at the Courtyard Hotel (Marriott) on the Country Club Plaza and after completing a site history for this hotel, learned that it was originally the historic Park Lane Apartments/Hotel built in the early 1900s as part of the J. C. Nichols vision for the Country Club District. Though it now serves Marriott hotel guests, it was once the location of grand parties associated with the Jazz and Prohibition Era.  Learning the history of this location made it that much more interesting and now it is not just a hotel that I stayed at once. In a way, I have begun the transformation from a passive consumer of history to an active consumer.

Although the word history seems to suggest incredibly important events, sometimes it as simple as a hotel that was built by a famous architect and real estate developer. What makes that kind of history important is not just the famous people associated with it or the noteworthy architecture, but the way in which it connects to the everyday citizen. So the next time you drive past a home or building that looks particularly interesting, try researching the place.  You might find some history that will connect you to your city, and to that site that has become part of your everyday commute.  In any case, you will become an active consumer of the everyday history, often the most rewarding kind.

National Archives at KC Seeks Interns for New Exhibit

Beginning this summer, the National Archives at Kansas City will host a new traveling exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. The exhibit is presented by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education and will be on display form June 24 through October 25, 2014. The archives are accepting intern applications for all or part of this time period. Training by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum the week of June 16 will start the internship, and interns will learn about museum education, outreach, and how to use social media to advance the work of history throughout their time with the exhibit. Potential activities include:

  • assisting with primary source related workshops for students;
  • leading visitors in hands-on museum activities;
  • helping develop family programming;
  • conducting research to identify documents for educational materials and programs;
  • working with DocsTeach, the National Archives’ lesson-plan building website;
  • supporting teacher workshop activities;
  • writing blog posts;
  • leading tours for special groups

Students majoring in history, education, political science, American studies, public history, museum studies, or a related field are a good match for this internship. Interns must enjoy working with people, understand historical methods, have excellent interpersonal skills, have strong writing skills, and be able to work in teams and independently.

Students who wish to apply should submit 1) a cover letter, 2) a resume, 3) two letters of recommendation, and 3) college transcripts (does not need to be official). Materials should be sent to:

Mickey Ebert | 400 West Pershing Road | Kansas City, MO 64108 | 816-268-8013

Applications will be received until the positions are full. Applications received by May 15 are guaranteed consideration; applications received after that date are accepted if space is available.

Eisterhold Associates Seeks Summer Intern

Eisterhold Associates, Inc. is a local exhibit design firm who has installed major exhibits at national institutions like the National Civil Rights Museum, the Rosa Parks Museum, Jurassic Park, the National Marine Corps Museum, and the Truman Presidential Library. This summer, Eisterhold is looking for an summer intern to conduct preliminary research for a future project on big data, health, and American demographics. Interns will research potential content for the exhibit as well as the methods and practices of similar projects. This will include, 

  • Developing meaningful narratives from data sets;
  • Creating a library of “current state” documents that describe the project to send out to clients as needed;
  • Maintaining communication threads between associates, potential funders, and interested parties; and
  • Research on similar exhibits and existing programs to learn best practices and potential areas for innovation.

By the internship’s end students will gain valuable experience in the art of historical interpretation, connecting history to the public through innovative exhibits and and creative narratives.

Interested students should reach out to Gerard Eisterhold (, head of Eisterhold Associations, for more information. Graduate students are preferred, but qualified undergraduates will be considered. Students interested in applying should follow the instructions on the How to Apply page. Applications will be received until the position is filled.

Summer Internship in Museum Education at the TWA Museum

The TWA Museum at the Wheeler Airport in downtown KC seeks an unpaid summer intern to work in the field of museum education. Interns will work with both the museum’s director and its archivist to design and implement a new tour of the museum, as well as a child-focused education program on the science of flight for the museum’s education center. Opportunities also exist for interns to work on training docents for the tour, as well as scheduling group tours and public programming.

Interested applicants should reach out to Carol Emert (, the museum’s archivist, for more information. Students wishing to apply should follow the instruction in the How to Apply page. The museum wil accept applications until the position is filled.

Summer Internships at the National Archives

The National Archives at Kansas City selectively offers unpaid internships to students currently enrolled in undergraduate- and graduate-level programs such as history, library and information science, social sciences, museum studies, and related disciplines. Unpaid interns are provided with a broad-based introduction to the archives field.

Unpaid interns work with archives staff while gaining experience with a variety of tasks, including describing holdings; performing basic preservation measures; preparing finding aids and indexes; creating educational and promotional materials; providing reference services on textual and audiovisual materials to the public; and learning about archival exhibits, records management, and the archives profession.

We ask that unpaid interns give a minimum of 120 hours of service, which is usually accomplished by working three 40-hour weeks. Some flexibility in the schedule is possible to accommodate classes and work.

The Archives will continue to accept applications until all positions have been filled. For more information, including how to apply, please see the full call for applications.

Photos, Photos, Photos

While this is my first post, I’ve been at the American Truck Historical Society (ATHS) for some time now. And my work has been quite eye opening so far…

The first day there, I was given the opportunity to sit in on a board meeting. ATHS is large, so they have board members from across the U.S. Each member can then join a committee of their choosing. (Archival, fundraising, etc.) It was nice to see how other museum entities functioned with their boards. ATHS is quite different though because the majority of their board are or were truckers, so sometimes it can be a challenge with conflicting ideas based on personal interest and professional need.

My main project so far has been helping to organize the ATHS’s White Photo Collection. The White family began the ATHS, so the majority of the photos were passed on from them. This task seems so large, but I really enjoy the work of organizing and making sense of the collection. There are about 130,000 photos in this particular collection, and it is the largest collection the ATHS possesses. Ultimately, the idea is to digitize the collection so members can search an online database for the pictures. Also, most of the pictures are in stage one degradation (vinegar smells!), so organization and storage needs to happen rather quickly.

In the board meeting I participated in the members were discussing digitizing the collection and then possibly destroying the collection in an effort to save time and money for future storage facilities. To me this seems horrible, but I guess if you don’t have the money? What do you fellow interns think?



Transcript Detective

IMG_1362Jessica Rockhold, Director of School Programs and Teacher Education at the MCHE, looked up at me from her desk. “You have a word?” she asked. Usually the reason I go find her is so she can help me figure out a word that I can’t decipher. “Well…” I said. “It’s actually a sentence.” We sat down next to the boom box and I played the five-second indecipherable sentence. I rewound it and played it again. We stared at each other and Jessica started to laugh. The only words we could make out were Czechoslovakia somewhere in the middle of the sentence and Stuttgart at the end. It was, ironically, the English in between that we couldn’t make out. Eventually we figured out the words and entered them in the transcription.

Before I started working at this internship, I became quite familiar with transcribing from a series of German letters as part of the online project at The palaeography skills I used for the letters are quite different from the skills I am learning now. With the letters, I had to study the old German script, and once I knew how the letters were formed, I could read the whole collection with few difficulties. With the interviews, I have to learn a new “script” each time I start with a new interview. Each person has their own cadence, different accents, and different ways of pronouncing certain sounds. While the letters are almost entirely in neat, full sentences, the interviewees pause, start and restart sentences, and change direction mid-sentence or even mid-word.

Sometimes working on these transcripts makes me feel like a detective. Unlike the letters, when the interviewee mentions a Polish town, I don’t have the spelling available, and so I need to find the town to confirm the spelling. Sometimes, if it’s an option, we can simply contact the interviewee. Other times the interviewees will drop words in German (or Yiddish, or Hungarian, or Polish, or Hebrew). Have I mentioned that Google Translate is quite useful? My background in 1930s German history has also been very useful because of the many Holocaust-related terms mentioned in the interviews. I am now well acquainted with how much knowledge and work goes into creating accessible documents for researchers. Unfortunately, despite all of our successes, some spots simply have to be labeled [UNCLEAR] in the transcript.

Truck Lovers Unite

By Whitney Knowles

Since the inches of snow and the ice, it has been hard to get in to the office. What I have been focusing on is the questions that come into the office about anything that could possibly be about trucks. It varies from a simple background search on a company to wanting to know the specific fact on a classic truck. I find it hard sometimes to give answers since I am not a wheels kind of gal and it leaves me looking through books trying to answer the question a member has asked me. something I think is cool is that the members are from all over the world. I was not aware how much people love their classic trucks. I answered a question about the White Truck Company for a man who lives in Iraq! Crazy that he would ask for truck info from little old Kansas City.

ATHS wants to update their Facebook and they gave the job to me. I have been racking my brain trying to think of what to post for them. I was thinking that I would post some cool facts about the start of the White Company since it first began as a sew machine company. Something that I was not aware of. I found a cool old picture of the first truck that they came out with and it looks cool. Going to take the night to think about it.

Major Reconstructions at Wornall House


Wornall House Feb 12, 2014

By Tony O’Bryan

Hello!  My name is Tony O’Bryan and I am a graduate student at UMKC finishing up a MA in History with a focus on 19th Century Missouri.  I have dual BAs from UMKC, one in Secondary Ed and another in History and I am thrilled to be involved in the History Department’s Public History program.  I specialize in the history of the greater Kansas City region and this internship opportunity is not only right up my alley of expertise, it is also my exact area of interest and study.

I will doing archival work, research for museum exhibit design, and developing curriculum content for the Wornall/Major’s House Museum community education programs.  While working at the Wornall House I will get to witness firsthand some of the construction work and foundation repair that was begun to save the south wall of the old house from buckling. You can see in the photo how the construction crews have braced some of their repair work.

I will feel right at home on a construction site.  Before I returned to college full-time I spent 17 years in the construction trades in Kansas City.  I have seen many regional historic homes and buildings quite literally from the inside out and these old buildings always interest me the most.  According to the common narrative this house was built with the labor of just four enslaved African-Americans and two free white laborers who worked for John Wornall.  The bricks were manufactured on the site.

When I see the massive size of the foundation stones of the Wornall House I always say to myself, “Just six guys to lay those huge blocks and make all those bricks?  No way!”

Maybe I will find out how they did it when I begin my work at Wornall House.  I cannot wait.

Not Just Places, People Too

By Natalie Walker

In the few weeks since my last post, I have done some research for my internship that has reminded me about why cities are such fascinating urban spaces.  Perhaps because they are often concentrated in one area, cities are overflowing with years of history just waiting to be peeled back and discovered.  While learning about places that will be added to the book I am working on, A Place in Time, I am constantly reminded that these sites and site introductions are much more than words on a page.  Moreover, these places represent so much more than a house with a history or a district with a personality, they represent people and generations of shared human experiences. What is also quite exciting is that while I write about these places I am given the unique opportunity of “going back in time” and picturing places in their original context.

Take for example Brush Creek that runs along the Country Club Plaza. Before its development by J.C. Nichols it looked something like this. Granted, this is still a somewhat manicured depiction, but the swampy creek and the stone certainly dates the picture.

brushAfter Nichols’ development to the place and when people started to move into the surrounding area, namely wealthy homebuilders, brush creek began to look like this.


Every time I drive by Brush Creek now I picture it as a dense marshy swamp that was transformed not only by J.C. Nichols, but by everyday Kansas Citians. So what exactly makes Brush Creek so special? What makes the Country Club District so special? Well, for one there is an immense history that surrounds the area: Civil War Battles, famous real estate moguls, exquisite architecture, to name a few.  All of these however seem lacking if we forget about the average citizens who created the place and made it what it is today.  What started out as a dense tract of brushwood and farmland is now a world famous entertainment district and gorgeous community.  Nichols was part of that, yes, but so were the settlers of the area when it was still a dream in the making.  People often forget about those that lived in a area before them. I drive by the plaza everyday and never think of it as farmland that Nichols had a vision for and the homebuilders were apprehensive about. Now I see the whole Country Club District in a new way because I know a little of the history, but more importantly I know about the people who were brave enough to settle along the southern city limits and create a truly iconic neighborhood and community.

As I continue to work on this internship, my goal is to remember the people and not just the place. I want to make sure that I tell a story that incorporates the story of the Kansas City citizen, not just the facts about a builder or a real estate developer.  Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” If we think of Kansas City, if we think of the Country Club District as something created by generations of people then we are partaking in history and in a shared human experience.