Museum’s new experience educator has passion for telling history’s stories

Greg Garrett was hired in January as the museum experience educator at Victoria College’s Museum of the Coastal Bend.

Greg Garrett can trace his fascination with history to the times when he’d accompany his father on metal-detecting trips.

“I’d hear some of the stories of other metal detectorists’ finds,” Garrett said. “That really rubbed off on me and, eventually, it turned into a career.”

After 17 years of working in the restaurant industry, Garrett obtained a bachelor’s degree in history from The University of Texas at San Antonio. He soon went to work at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio while acquiring his master’s degree at UTSA. In January, Garrett joined Victoria College’s Museum of the Coastal Bend as its museum experience educator.

“The great thing about working at the Museum of the Coastal Bend is that I get to focus on one region,” Garrett said. “At the ITC, we had to know a little bit about everything Texas.”

Garrett, who grew up in Lockhart, headed up the highway to Austin after graduating from high school and began a career running kitchens in area restaurants.

“It’s hard work. You have to trust and have each other’s backs,” Garrett said of the restaurant industry. “I loved every minute of it, and I thought it was going be my career. Then my dad passed away in 2004, and I slowly began to realize that I kind of needed to solidify things a little bit.”

Garrett had taken classes at Austin Community College off and on. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2010 and began working at the ITC as a volunteer. Lupita Barrera, the ITC’s director of research and education, noticed Garrett’s enthusiasm for Texas history and offered him a part-time, paid position.

“She saw me talking to people smiling, being really passionate about what I was doing,” Garrett said. “And she brought me on finally for 19 hours a week, and I jumped on that.”

Garrett eventually gained a full-time role at the ITC after obtaining his master’s degree. He led the outreach and oral history programs for the ITC’s Back 40, which was a section of the museum devoted to educating visitors on life in the Texas frontier.

Garrett also enjoys telling peoples’ stories in print. He coauthored three books in a series chronicling the history of Mexican American baseball in Texas. Garrett was also one of the main researchers for a Negro League Baseball exhibit at the San Antonio International Airport.

“I’ve always thought that it’s tough to not like someone when you’ve heard their story,” Garrett said. “I feel we often don’t take time to listen to a person’s story. I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on politically, religiously, socially – you have a story. I have tried to draw on that principle during my professional career.”

Now Garrett, whose ancestor, David Cummings, was one of the “Gonzales 32” to fight at the Alamo, is excited to tell the stories of the Coastal Bend.

“I want to create an interactive classroom with hands-on objects and immersive learning opportunities,” Garrett said. “We want children to step into the classroom and realize that it is an area of exploration and discovery.”

Garrett is actively recruiting volunteer staff, re-establishing the museum’s outreach programming, and establishing the museum as the premiere destination for educational and interactive field trips in the Coastal Bend region.

“I feel strongly about the responsibility that we in the public history sector have as a platform for all the voices and stories in our community,” Garrett said. “The only way that these stories are revealed is by building relationships in the community. It is my goal to help the Coastal Bend region and its people tell their stories through the medium we provide as public historians.”

Sue Prudhomme, VC’s executive director of cultural affairs, said Garrett brings an ability to connect with audiences of all ages.

“Greg has the knowledge to create innovative programs, such as our recent Spring Break History-on-the-Go activities, and the enthusiasm to implement engaging lessons that bring history to life,” Prudhomme said. “With Greg on board, we’re looking forward to growing audiences and support for the Museum of the Coastal Bend.”

The Museum of the Coastal Bend is located on Victoria College’s Main Campus at 2200 E. Red River Street. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission to the museum is pay-what-you-want.

Due to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, guests to all Victoria College facilities are required to wear a facial covering, have their temperatures taken and pass a health screening. Social distancing is also required.