By JOHN KIENER
Megan Cullen Tewell is the new program coordinator of the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. A former volunteer at the Alliance, she said, “When the position became available, I immediately knew that I wanted to join The Heritage Alliance,” said Tewell, a former volunteer with the Alliance. “I admire the organization, the people who run it, and the work that they do.”
Her duties include assisting in the development and implementation of new programs, exhibit development and collections management. Tewell has a college degree plus a master’s degree in public history from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She presently is working on a PhD from NC State and is writing a dissertation about Historic Prison Museums.
Megan and her husband, Ryan, have lived in Johnson City for two and a half years. He is a professor in the College of Pharmacy at East Tennessee State University. Moving to Washington County, Tewell said, “I volunteered at the Alliance because I was eager to learn more about the history of the area, and to help preserve and share it.” Her time was limited because she continued teaching at NC State.
“I hope to implement fresh ideas and create exciting new opportunities for visitors to benefit from our programs and collections,” Tewell said.
She added that “Anne G-Fellers-Mason (Alliance executive director) has started a ‘hands-on’ object lab that brings history to students who may not be able to visit our historic sites and museums. We have already launched a pilot version of the program in classrooms in Southwest Virginia that has impacted 120 students, young people who otherwise would not be able to benefit from our collections and programs.”
This outreach is one of two current programs in which Tewell plans to get involved. The other is a historic preservation effort for a building in Johnson City. Currently, she said, the organization’s service area is Jonesborough-centered because of where the Alliance offices, archives and museums are located.
“We plan to reach out more to other communities in the future,” she said. “I am excited to see what is next as we enter 2020 and continue our work impacting a new generation of students, visitors, and local residents.”
Tewell said the mission of the Alliance remains on history and appreciates the reliance “our stakeholders have to this mission. We are not a political organization, but we do believe our contributions to the community are valuable.”
Explaining that heritage tourism is the practice of using a community’s location to leverage their history to generate economics, Tewell said, “Jonesborough is a good example of how heritage tourism can successfully impact a community. I think other towns and cities in our region could benefit from a similar model.”
“Our focus is mainly on the residents of the area,” she added. This focus explains part of the reason that the Heritage Alliance continues to provide changing exhibits in its museums and hosts an extensive lecture and program series attracting attendance by community members.
Tewell says she is an avid reader, and she’s helped write grants and craft exhibits. As an example of her writing, she mentioned that her undergraduate thesis was on “Train Robbery Gangs.”
“We are so excited to have Megan as a part of the Heritage Alliance team,” Executive Director Anne Mason exclaims. “We’re excited to see what programs she implements, what exhibits she crafts, and what adventures she takes us on.”