Vinton History Museum executive secretary Judy Cunningham says that the museum is truly blessed to have several summer interns/volunteers this year.
Anna Jones is finishing up her Associate Degree in Criminal Justice at Virginia Western Community College. This spring, Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster was her Criminology course instructor. He mentioned to the class that internships were available at the Vinton Police Department.
Foster and Deputy Chief Captain Fabricio Drumond had become interested in research on the history of the Vinton Police Department. That became Jones’ assignment this summer— using the resources of the history museum to compile a written history of the department which will also include some type of visual element for display. She is using archived Vinton Messengers, handwritten police records starting in 1957, and other primary and secondary sources.
Jones is from the Roanoke area and graduated from Lord Botetourt High School. She said she was actually unaware of the existence of the Vinton History Museum before this project began.
The museum is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and those are pretty much the hours Jones keeps. Her internship is unpaid and doesn’t include college credit, but she documents her hours for Chief Foster.
Jones says it has been fun looking through the old newspapers and seeing what life was like in the past. She had not known that wigs were so popular in bygone days until she noticed an ad for an old savings and loan company in which women received a wig for opening an account.
Hailey Ellis is also spending her time to benefit the Vinton museum this summer. She graduated from Franklin County High School in the Class of 2015 and will be graduating from Emory and Henry College with the Class of 2019. She is majoring in history with a minor in religion. In addition to her internship at the museum, she is taking two online courses with Emory and Henry during the summer session.
She is interested in local history and is especially captivated by genealogy and researching her own ancestry. She saved up and bought DNA kits for herself and her parents and found what she discovered about her family genealogy not just fascinating, but sometimes unexpected.
Ellis volunteered at the museum last summer, felt comfortable with the staff and familiar with the museum and its artifacts and records, and returned for an internship this summer. She is cataloguing, organizing records, and handling documents concerning local families.
She spends about 12 hours a week at the museum— all the hours they are open. Her hours count toward one college credit, on a pass/fail basis. She keeps a journal of her activities and will receive a grade from her professor at the end of the summer. Cunningham will complete a form evaluating her performance as well. Ellis believes her work at the museum will contribute to whatever career she ultimately chooses.
Her future plans are still “up in the air” but she hopes to work in some field involving public history and genealogy. She says that it is intriguing to her to research back in time to see how the influence of many individuals impacted and helped shape the life of one descendant.
Leo Lin began volunteering at the Vinton History Museum this spring during the Dogwood Festival Open House at the museum. He learned about the museum and volunteer service opportunities through the guidance and career department at William Byrd High School where he is a member of the Class of 2019. He plans to attend college and most likely major in computer programming.
He volunteers this summer for eight hours each week. Students gain special recognition upon graduating from high school if they complete 50 hours of community service. His goal is 100 hours before he graduates next spring.
Lin said he finds history interesting. He has researched specific artifacts at the Vinton History Museum this summer, so far including a set of three butter churns, and military pins in the museum’s extensive military collection.
He said he has just been doing whatever he has been asked to at the museum, including helping Jones with her research on the police department history.
In his spare time, Lin helps out with his family’s restaurant— the China Wall in Vinton with his parents, Wan Yu Lin and Xiu Qing Hu.
The Vinton History Museum is located in the historic Upson House in downtown Vinton at the corner of Jackson and Maple, just across the street from the Vinton Library. The public is welcome to stop by during operating hours or by appointment. Call 342-8634 for more information.
The museum will be undergoing renovations in the near future to replace the electrical wiring system. Funds for the project have been raised through memberships, yard sales (the next one is coming up in August), and the sale of Vinton tapestry throws, Vinton ornaments, and history museum T-shirts, in addition to donations.