Intern finishes time at museum by producing oral history collection

Glory Turnbull concluded an internship at Victoria College’s Museum of the Coastal Bend by producing oral histories of the museum’s volunteers.

Glory Turnbull had conducted interviews before. But while producing oral histories of several volunteers for Victoria College’s Museum of the Coastal Bend, Turnbull learned a good ear is just as important as good questions.

“I learned it’s really important to be present in the interview, rather than just go by notes or look for a specific answer,” Turnbull said. “I never knew what they were going to say because they have such vast knowledge. I really wanted to listen to them because I learned so much more than what I was expecting.”

The recording of oral histories was part of Turnbull’s master’s degree capstone project at St. Mary’s University. The interviews featured volunteers talking about archaeological excavations of the shipwreck La Belle, Fort St. Louis and other Texas sites.

“I was trained to do oral histories, but this was the first time for me to do it from a historian’s perspective,” Turnbull said. “I had worked as a storyteller-journalist with the communications office at St. Mary’s. This was my first time doing interviews for the purpose of recording history. The volunteers’ perspectives were so varied. I could ask them all the same question – and I did – and they all gave very different answers.”

Turnbull came to VC last summer on a collections internship. One of Turnbull’s tasks was the accession and digitization of the collection of almost 2,000 artifacts donated to the museum by Ben McReynolds.

“I was very busy taking 2,000 pictures and writing little numbers on 2,000 artifacts,” Turnbull said. “It was really great. How often does someone get to individually hold and inspect that many artifacts? That’s one of my favorite things about this job.”

In September, Turnbull will travel to Aberystwyth University in Wales to work in the college’s Master of Arts in Archives Administration Program.

“I plan to get another master’s degree, this time in archives and records management,” Turnbull said. “My current master’s is in public history, which is a lot more broad.”

Heather Para, museum exhibits and collections manager, said Turnbull’s contributions have been invaluable.

“Glory has brought a great understanding of how collections management works to the museum,” Para said. “It was not at all difficult for me to entrust Glory with the oral history interviews. Glory spent a lot of time getting to know the volunteers, and they became friends. Rather than a stranger interviewing them, Glory was someone they trusted and cared about.”

Turnbull said the one year at the Museum of the Coastal Bend was a life-changing experience.

“Getting to befriend and work with people here who have so much experience was amazing,” Turnbull said. “They taught me about archaeology. It’s a newfound passion for me. I want to keep doing it after I leave. It has changed the direction of my life for sure.”

Videos of the oral history interviews can be viewed at