Bath Spa alum preserves legacy of local townWednesday, 7 February, 2024
Bath Spa MA Heritage Management alum Lee Sites has played a key role in helping to preserve and share the history of his local town in Ohio, USA.
During his postgraduate studies at Bath Spa, Lee developed his passion for heritage management, learning about the intricate details of maintaining professional museum archives and how he could take his skills forward into a career.
Since graduating, Lee has returned to Ohio and continued to pursue his passion for heritage management through the New Straitsville History Museum - a volunteer-run organisation featuring a collection of exhibits that tell stories of the former coal mining town.
Founded in the 1970s, the History Group seeks preservation rather than profit and has been celebrating its connections to national history and the stories of the town for over five decades.
Nurturing a strong connection with Ohio University, the museum relies heavily on student volunteers. This is how Lee first became involved in the organisation.
As an undergraduate student at Ohio University, Lee volunteered sporadically for events whenever he had the chance – collecting artifacts and preserving documents to help visitors understand the region’s rich history.
Discussing his work at the museum and the influence of his MA, Lee said:
“In my first year at Ohio University my Anthropology class spent that day at the New Straitsville History Group. I created an exhibit focusing on the brick plant that once operated there and after the project ended, I continued to work on the exhibit and took on other projects.”
“I discovered that I wanted to pursue a career in museum heritage. This led me to Bath and Bath Spa University’s Heritage Management course. The degree not only allowed me to take my passion and knowledge of the field to the next level but gave me the invaluable experience of studying abroad.”
Lee recently became part of an integral project led by Ohio University professor of Anthropology, Nancy Tatarek. Nancy led a group in removing mould from thousands of pages worth of historical documents, including court records and birth certificates. Without these documents, there would be no window into New Straitsville’s past.
Since graduating from his MA, Lee added another string to his bow and secured a role at the Southeastern Ohio History Center – where he hopes to encourage students to pursue museum work.
Reflecting on the significance of the New Straitsville History Museum in shaping the town’s legacy and the importance of his work, Lee offered advice to Bath Spa students wanting to follow in his footsteps. He said:
“Explore every avenue you can. Had I not taken a random school trip in 2018, I would likely still be wondering what I wanted to do with my life.”