By Rikki Davenport, Curator of Education
Looking at Drayton Hall, it’s easy to recognize the house as our most valuable asset. Visit Drayton Hall, work at Drayton Hall, or volunteer at Drayton Hall and it’s just as easy to recognize that our interpreters are every bit as valuable as our house. It is our interpreters who provide a voice to the people who lived and worked on the landscape, who make the architecture and history accessible to all of our visitors, and who inspire people to embrace historic preservation. This month we have chosen to highlight our interpreters who have been part of Drayton Hall’s history for five or more years.
Peggy Reider, circa 2001, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Bates College and a Master of Public Administration from Penn State University. As Drayton Hall’s lead interpreter, Peggy works to prepare new interpreters to present house tours and the Connections program. After thirteen years of being immersed in Drayton Hall knowledge, Peggy is the go-to person when staff members have a question about anything from family history to the location of a file on colonial brick making. While Peggy has presented every public program offered, she does have her favorite. “What I love most is the interaction in the Connections program,” Peggy said.
Phoebe Willis, circa 2002, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree. Phoebe started at Drayton Hall as a volunteer, followed by time in the shop until her retirement. Unable to stay away from Drayton Hall, Phoebe returned in 2007 as a walking tour guide then added on the roles of interpreter and volunteer archaeological assistant. Phoebe says, “The thing I like best about working at Drayton Hall is the amazing combined talents of the staff from whom I have learned so much. Drayton Hall, the place, is such a treasure trove of “stuff” waiting to be discovered or disclosed.”
Pattie Jack, circa 2004, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early American Studies and a Master of Arts in Teaching History. For the past decade, Pattie has been busy leading tours, organizing student programs, working in the museum shop, and welcoming visitors at the front gate. “My favorite thing about Drayton Hall is driving on the property every morning,” Pattie said. “When the house comes into view, it never fails to give me and overwhelming sense of place and peace.”
Diane Miller, circa 2005, finished her Bachelor of Arts in Historic Preservation and Community Planning. A lover of history and material culture, Diane was excited to begin her role as an interpreter at Drayton Hall only a few months after graduation from the College of Charleston. Diane now splits her time between Drayton Hall and as a staff member at her alma mater. Diane enjoys the company of everyone and said, “What I love most is working with a group of people who find the history of Drayton Hall as fascinating as I do and who, like me, absolutely love to share what we know with our visitors.”
Amanda Franklin, circa 2005, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Historic Preservation from the College of Charleston. Born and raised in Charleston, Amanda has been connected to Drayton Hall since her first visit at seven years old. After learning how the Drayton family kept a growth chart of their children and dogs, Amanda began a growth chart of her family pets. She now enjoys measuring her own children and seeing the tradition continue as Draytons bring new generations to be added to the growth chart at Drayton Hall. “This place has been part of my life since I was a child. I grew up just down the street and always knew that I would be a part of this history.”
Betsy McAmis, circa 2007, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Charleston Southern University (then Baptist College at Charleston), and a Master of Arts in Teaching from The Citadel. Betsy taught history and Spanish at Summerville High School for thirty-three years before joining the staff of Drayton Hall. While she enjoyed the classroom, she doesn’t hesitate to tell people that her favorite job has been as a Drayton Hall interpreter. Ever the teacher, Betsy said the following: “My favorite thing about working at Drayton Hall is sharing in discussions about our nation’s history with every age group from grade school students to senior citizens. Visitors and staff alike are eager to talk about history all day long! What could be more delightful for a retired history teacher than to see such enthusiasm for life-long learning?”
Leslie Newman, circa 2007, holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Wofford College, a Master of Education in Secondary Education from Converse College, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina. Leslie began her tenure at Drayton Hall as an interpreter and two years ago added on the role of Membership and Development Coordinator. While Leslie spends most of her time working with the Friends of Drayton Hall, she still manages to occasionally lead a group house tour and stay involved with the interpretive staff. “What I love most about working at Drayton Hall is the camaraderie among all of us who love history and who appreciate and support the mission of preserving this special site for future generations,” Leslie said. “Also, I feel so fortunate to be able to come to work here each day–how many people have their office in a place of such natural beauty and historic importance?”
Sarah Stroud Clarke, circa 2008, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology from San Diego State University, and is pursuing a PhD in anthropology from Syracuse University. Sarah began her career at Drayton Hall as an intern, then joined the interpretive staff, and now serves as Archeologist and Curator of Collections. When she isn’t digging in the dirt or mending artifacts, Sarah enjoys leading house tours and speaking to students on field trips. “I love the challenge of my job,” Sarah said. “It is a privilege to take care of our museum collection and to study the amazing archaeological collection; my work is never boring!”
Visit Drayton Hall and you will experience a tour led by the best educated and most devoted staff of any historic site in the area. As the Curator of Education at Drayton Hall for the past seven years, it has been my pleasure and honor to work with a staff of interpreters who truly believe in the mission of Dayton Hall and add to the history of the site every day.
Rikki Davenport, circa 2007, holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Political Science from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Arts in Education, Curriculum and Instruction from California State University, Sacramento, and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from The Citadel.