By Anna Allen, ’16
Everyone loves a good story — especially a story that actually happened. This past summer, Emeline Blevins, ’17, took an internship where she told the story of the Beauregard-Keyes (BK) House in New Orleans, La. The house, however, is no ordinary house — it is a museum of the history of New Orleans, with endless stories available to the public, thanks to tour guides like Blevins.
From giving tours to museum visitors to writing a guidebook detailing the history of the house that aimed to convey a more cohesive story, Blevins found herself immersed in her passion for the past.
Blevins says her favorite part of working at the house was writing, editing, and publishing the guidebook. “It’s what I’m really proud of,” she says. “And it’s something that I know the house will use for years to come.”
“One important aspect of museums is the narrative you need to create to tell visitors,” says Blevins. “The problem with the Beauregard-Keyes House is that there is no consistent narrative, but rather a collection of stories from different families across time.” While this is certainly part of the BK House’s charm, Blevins wanted the guidebook to start filling in the gaps in the narrative by outlining the history of the house in more detail.
Obtaining the right information was her first step in completing her guidebook. “There's a huge bed in one of the bedrooms that nobody really knew anything about and — surprise — it was custom made for Beauregard [the namesake of the BK House] with wood shipped from South America. Finding neat things like that and clearing up any questions a fellow volunteer may have had was rewarding,” she says.
Now that Blevins’s guidebook houses all of the accurate information for the museum, she hopes to improve the stories shared with museum visitors during tours. “I hope in the future I can help create a more nuanced story for tours — one that doesn’t jump from one person to another in no chronological order,” she says.
With Blevins’s history prowess and her newly implemented guidebook, tourists now have quick and easy access to all sorts of topics relating to the house, from the line of ownership, to murders involving the mafia that took place there, to background information about the artwork inside the house.
“The mafia murders story is a particularly exciting new addition to tours,” says Blevins. Although the museum has had the information since the 1970s, they are just now fitting it into the historical narrative of the house. “It's usually a big hit with the guests. People love a good murder story, especially if they like ghosts,” she says.
Blevins wants to encourage the excitement behind history through storytelling, because she believes it leads to further interest in the subject. “One of my co-workers doesn't tell the story of the mafia murder unless people ask, but what tourist from Nebraska is going to know about a mafia murder in 1908?” she says.
Through her internship, Blevins has found her niche in the museum world and is excited to continue her work at the BK House this coming summer, when she’ll return for another internship. “I already know that I get to look forward to my job over the summer and improve upon the work I did last year,” she says. “Museums are so much fun and you meet so many people and get to share history with them, which is simply amazing.”