My Visit to Southport, North Carolina
By Gabriela McCain, University of California, Los Angeles
Over the past several weeks, I have been assisting with data compilation and contacting cultural sites and institutions in North Carolina potentially affected by Hurricane Florence. This has been both a challenging and incredibly rewarding experience for me.
Our first assignment was to organize and clean datasets of cultural institutions. I really enjoyed this assignment because it gave me a sense of the missions and goals of the organizations that I would be contacting later, and a greater appreciation for the important work that I am involved in through this internship. I was then assigned a list of priority institutions likely affected by the hurricane to call and assess for damage, and I was able to learn more about the rich history and various cultural institutions in North Carolina.
As a student born and raised in California, I did not know a lot about the history or heritage of areas like Southport in Brunswick County, North Carolina. It was an unexpected bonus to be able to learn so much about a new place and a new community through this research. I learned about the history of the region in a way that would not have been possible without researching the small museums, galleries, and historic sites that I was assigned.
I also really appreciated the opportunity to contact these local institutions. While cold calling was initially very nerve wracking, it became a valuable experience. I learned to overcome my anxiety and perform surveys professionally. Ultimately, it was very rewarding because many of the institutions I contacted were happy to receive my call. I had the opportunity to converse with people about their disaster experiences and offer my aid. During one such call, I spoke with a woman regarding a local historic site and was actually able to learn so much about the area of Southport, its historic significance, and the ways in which the community came together during the hurricane. This conversation was inspiring, and really gave me the opportunity to better understand the people I am helping and the heritage we are working to protect. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to offer tangible assistance, even though I am on the other side of the United States. It was also very humbling to hear the experience of communities affected by the hurricane, and it was inspiring to learn how these communities are coming together to assist each other and to be able to play a minor role in ensuring that they are safe and their cultural heritage is being protected during this difficult time.