Historic St. Luke’s Welcomes Volunteer Catherine Porter

Volunteer Catherine Porter

Volunteer Catherine Porter

Join Historic St. Luke’s as they welcome volunteer Catherine Porter. Marketing Coordinator Joseph Tapia recently sat down to interview the newest volunteer.

Joseph: So, Catherine welcome to Historic St. Luke’s!

Catherine: Absolutely, great to be here.

J: Let’s jump right in then. Tell us some about yourself.

C: Well, I grew up in Virginia, in Carrsville.

J: So not that far away from Smithfied, about forty minutes or so. Okay. What brought you to Historic St. Luke’s? Have you ever heard of us before you started volunteering?

C: I have heard about it and the museum, and I would drive by a lot. I wanted to do archival research and a friend referred me. And here I am; I also recently just earned my PhD in History from Cambridge and wanted to continue doing historical research.

J: Wow, that’s quite the accomplishment! You must have a real passion for the subject. Tell me a little about what drove you to pursue that.

C: Absolutely. A lot of my drive academically came from the support of my family, my parents specifically. Some of the academic influences I’ve really been drawn to include Henry Louis Gates, Dorothy Hodgkin, and my PhD supervisor at Cambridge just to name a couple.

J: Have you been able to go inside or take a tour yet?

C: I was able to see inside the church building for the first time today, and it’s stunning. For the past 6 weeks I’ve been dealing with an injured foot so mobility is a bit of an issue for me right now, haha. I look forward to going on a tour later this week.

J: Your volunteer project focuses on a certain object, and it’s story is somewhat of an enigma. Tell us about it.

C: Sure. I’m using paleography, a skill used to read and date historic manuscripts, to decipher this 1670’s document that now belongs to an Isle of Wight resident. He’s lending it to Historic St. Luke’s, during which time we hope to be able to find out what this document is.

J: What have we discovered so far?

C: Well, it’s still a work in progress and I’m on the second read-through but the majority of the document still remains a mystery.  The parts that we have deciphered are very intriguing. I’ve learned that the document originated from Oxford. The document ostensibly appears to be an indentured servitude contract as well as a marriage contract.

Marketing Coordinator Joseph Tapia

Marketing Coordinator Joseph Tapia

J: So you’re thinking that whoever this person is also getting married?

C: That is correct.

J: Wow, sounds very interesting.

C: Haha, yeah you could say that. Voluntary indentured servitude wasn’t uncommon. Sometimes there was a quid-pro-quo value associated with it. What makes this document so different are the terms of the service – the length of time is uncommonly long and it also looks from my first cursory glance like there is some form of remuneration.  

J: The mystery continues.

C: Yep.

J: Any recognizable names attached?

C: Sebastian Smith of Christ Church College, University of Oxford.  He was one of the more important people mentioned.

J: When do you suspect you’ll be finished extrapolating the whole story?

C: Hopefully soon. We’d really like to publish a complete story for press and public consumption soon.

J: Sounds like a very juicy project. When you finish it, would you consider volunteering at Historic St. Luke’s in another capacity?

C: I would certainly like to. This is the stuff that I enjoy sinking my teeth into. 

J: Is there anything else you would like to tell to our readers?

C: If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities that really make you feel like you’re making a difference, that what you’re doing is important, call Historic St. Luke’s. The staff has done an incredible job and making me feel welcomed and valued. Whether it’s archival, research, special event staffing, they’ll put you to work in something you’ll love and enjoy, and I really look forward to more opportunities.

J: Catherine, thank you so much for your time volunteering at St. Luke’s.

C: It’s been a pleasure, thank you.

More Information

If you’re interested in volunteering check out our Volunteer page by clicking here. To inquire, give us a call at 757-357-3367. Or email our Education Coordinator Rachel Popp at rpopp@historicstlukes.org.