Next up in our series of Spotlight posts is the KATH Board representative for Public Historians: Kate Hesseldenz, Curator & Development Assistant at the Liberty Hall Historic Site in Frankfort. Here’s her answers to our questions:
Current school and alma mater/s: I am a public historian, a curator, at Liberty Hall Historic Site in Frankfort. I received my BA in Art History (1991) from Indiana University, Bloomington and my MA in Anthropology/Museum Studies (2001) from the University of Denver.
Fields of interest: Kentucky history and Early American history
When did you first develop an interest in history? In college, in my first semester at IU, I took an art appreciation class which I loved. This experience began my lifelong interest in both art and history.
How have your interests changed since graduate school? My degree is in Anthropology so I didn’t study history in grad school, but I began working at the Kentucky Historical Society after graduate school. I began learning Kentucky history then, although I grew up in Kentucky and had previously worked at the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology at UK, so I already had a base knowledge of prehistoric and historic Kentucky.
What projects are you working on currently? In addition to a wonderful decorative arts collection at Liberty Hall, we also have a library and archives. In an effort to raise awareness and scholarship about the Brown family, who lived at Liberty Hall, we are currently (through a grant-funded project) working to catalog and digitize this collection. Very little scholarship has been done on John Brown, who was one of Kentucky’s first U.S. Senators. Brown also worked for many years for Kentucky statehood. Working behind-the-scenes in Washington prior to 1792, he helped to establish Kentucky as a state. By digitizing our archival collection and creating an online catalog, we are hoping to entice Kentucky history scholars to choose Brown as a research topic. We will begin making the collection accessible online in the summer of 2016.
Is there an article, book, movie, blog, etc., that you could recommend to fellow KATH members? I just read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. I thought it was such an amazing book. Having read Seabiscuit, I knew Hillenbrand was a good writer and with this book she did not disappoint. The story of Louis Zamperini’s survival amidst major adversity was truly riveting—a real page-turner!
Other than history, what are you passionate about? Art, reading, cooking, yoga, and enjoying time with friends and family.
Any final thoughts? With falling attendance at historic sites, there is much discussion amongst historic house professionals about how to stay relevant. Many of us don’t visit or support the local treasures in our own backyards. If you don’t already, please visit/support Kentucky’s historic house museums—many are doing interesting programs, re-inventing the tour experience, and creating new exhibits or interpretative spaces.