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Courtney Lonsway at the Carter Center
December 19, 2019

History plus art adds up to a promising career

Courtney Lonsway ’18 arrived at Berry with a love of history. But by the end of her freshman year, she doubled her academic interests to major in history and minor in art. This decision propelled Courtney through a rich combination of courses, study abroad and internships, including a stint at The Carter Center. Today she works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Museum and credits Berry experiences and mentors with her success.

Professor of Art History Virginia Troy introduced Courtney to historic preservation. “She helped me realize that art and history work together beautifully,” Courtney says. “Dr. Troy connected me with Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum, where I met her former student and museum curator, Rachel McLucas, who put my coursework into action.”  

Courtney gained three years of hands-on experience, with increasing levels of responsibility. As a docent, she led tours of the Oak Hill historic home, performed archival maintenance of artifacts and interacted with visitors. “My Berry work experience prepared me to face the ‘trial by fire’ nature of museum work,” she says. “Each day presented a new challenge and new experience of learning stories from visitors and the history around me.”

As a research assistant, Courtney served as one of the historic building inspectors, monitoring and reporting on the condition of Oak Hill. She also learned to catalog and display artifacts and to set up gallery displays at Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum. By her senior year, Courtney rose to the positions of lead historical building inspector and curatorial assistant. “Selecting pieces and orchestrating the art gallery hallway taught me the importance of logistics, arrangement and precision,” she explains.

Courtney expanded her training with internships at the Atlanta History Center, the Margaret Mitchell House and the Breman Museum: Weinberg Center. “These experiences enabled me to explore different historical eras and learn from the perspectives of those around me,” she says. She met a number of Holocaust survivors while preparing educational materials, surveys and activities to facilitate teacher training and Holocaust dialogue at the Breman Museum.

Studying advanced history and drawing in Madrid reinforced Courtney’s career interests. “The art and history throughout Spain inspired me to continue to pursue work in museums with a greater appreciation for the importance of learning other languages to understand and appreciate the provenance of collections,” she says.

“I consider it an honor to have experienced the joy and love that President Carter and his wife Rosalynn devote in their efforts to wage peace, fight disease and build hope.”

Throughout her college career, Courtney shone academically. She presented twice at Berry’s Symposium on Student Scholarship, with research projects on “Renaissance Art and Rabbits” and “War and Art: The Journey of the Ghent Altarpiece.” She received top awards at the Honors Convocation — the Troy Gardner Art Award and the History Faculty Award.

After graduation, Courtney landed a meaningful position as an art/volunteer services intern at The Carter Center, where she put management, conservation, research and appraisal skills into action. She also worked on docent training materials. A memorable highlight of this experience included spending time with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. “I consider it an honor to have experienced the joy and love that President Carter and his wife Rosalynn devote in their efforts to wage peace, fight disease and build hope.”

In 2019, she landed a job as the curatorial assistant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Museum, where she is tackling new learning opportunities: “My work at the CDC has expanded my knowledge of collections through an expansive collection of posters, documents, t-shirts, notebooks, pamphlets and more. My research skills have expanded through the creation of abstracts and keywords for Global Health Chronicles, a free web-based collection of disease-based public health."

As she looks to her future, Courtney is considering graduate school with an eye on programs in public history or museum work. Looking back on her own college career, she says three things are important for students: “Start job hunting before graduation. Keep your resume updated for opportunities. Rewarding internships provide professional growth, job opportunities and networking within your field.”

Photo courtesy of The Carter Center

Staff Writer

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