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A Summer of Storytelling

I love stories. I can spend hours reading blurbs on the back of books or watching movie trailers because I love the feeling of something capturing and enticing me. Telling history is, in essence, storytelling. There is a plot, there are characters, and there is a resolution (sometimes).

My interest in history developed after I received my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but I had always been fascinated by community engagement, education, and public parks. After a road trip from Atlanta to Washington in 2018, I collected many brochures from parks, read hundreds of museum panels, and researched the history of each public site I visited. This trip spurred my decision to join the University of West Georgia’s Masters in Public History program to hopefully one day contribute to a public site or museum.  

After living near Oakland Cemetery for years, I wanted to know more about its role in Atlanta’s history. The cemetery is an Atlanta staple known for its service as Atlanta’s oldest public park, so it was an honor to have the opportunity to learn how to communicate with the public and to get people interested in Oakland’s stories. What better way than through social media and marketing?

I worked with my supervisor, Marcy Breffle, to brainstorm ways to connect visitors with Oakland’s tours. Tours provide visitors with an in-depth, “up close and personal” experience to learn more about a site versus just taking a stroll. There are over 70,000 individuals residing in Oakland Cemetery, which means there are over 70,000 stories to tell. Throughout the last few months, I created a marketing plan for each tour and spent time researching Oakland’s history, photographing the site, designing content, and writing copy for social media. Social media has been an excellent tool to reach an audience, but it also serves as an outlet to share the work at Oakland with the world. 

My time at Oakland Cemetery has been an incredible experience. I have developed new skills in design, but ultimately learned new ways to market historic sites to a public audience. The classroom is great, but working with an organization with an excellent mission and vision (and beautiful grounds with many stories) has allowed me to gain insight into my chosen field. The Oakland staff have been kind and supportive, and for that, I’m thankful for such an enriching summer.

Jen Glaze is a graduate student in Public History at the University of West Georgia. She is interested in Victorian and leisure history, visiting historic sites, and being outside.

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