UofL alum takes history degree to historic houses
BY KAELA DICKERMAN • NOVEMBER 10, 2021
Throughout October, the city of Louisville gets to wow residents and tourists with its rich history, both haunted and otherwise. For Chris Church ’16, he gets to wow residents and tourists with rich history throughout the entire year.
Church, the assistant director at the Conrad-Caldwell House in the historic Old Louisville neighborhood, didn’t dream of working in historic houses as a child. In fact, it wasn’t until pursuing his associate degree that Church became interested in history.
“Growing up, my mom researched our family history constantly, and I never understood why she enjoyed it,” Church said. “Now, all of a sudden, I find myself researching families I have no genealogical connection with and loving what I do.”
After transferring to UofL from Jefferson Community Technical College, Church continued to grow in his passion for history. Even today there are still many things he learned at UofL that he uses in his career.
“Historical methods is the first required course you have to take at UofL in order to graduate with a degree in history. This course is meant to train students on how to use primary and secondary sources to conduct research and write your findings,” Church said. “The course itself was fantastic, and I look back to what I learned in that course when I’m conducting research, presenting a lecture or writing an article. Whatever research I’m doing, I’ll always look back to the things I learned in that historical methods course.”
Though many people might not consider having a career in historic homes at first, Church found this path to be the perfect fit for who he is and what he wanted to do.
“My initial goal when I switched my major was to become a history teacher. I had always intended on going into teaching,” Church said. “When I started working in historic houses, I realized that I could still be a teacher, interacting with and teaching new people every day.”
Some of the topics Church gets to teach visitors of the Conrad-Caldwell House include what Louisville’s Gilded Age looked like, the stories of the families who lived in the house, the historic St. James Court and details about the 10,000 square-foot Victorian home.
After graduating, Church had the opportunity to connect his schooling field with his career field right away. With connections he created by working at the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office, Church’s first job was at Culbertson Mansion, a historic house museum across the river. From there, he was able to gain the experience he needed to apply for the position with the Conrad-Caldwell House.
“Professionally, my biggest accomplishment is being able to work in my field of study,” Church said. “It’s been amazing to be able to take my degree from UofL along with my passion for history and thankfully transition into a career field where that degree is useful.”
In October, Church is even busier with additional spooky events at the Conrad-Caldwell House. One of the programs offered is an evening tour of the house where visitors can expect to learn about different Victorian mourning cultures. Outside of October, the Conrad-Caldwell house is a staple of Louisville history and provides many opportunities for events and programs.
For other students interested in a career connected to history, Church suggests getting involved. It might not be easy to know where to start, but being in a city with such a rich history is a good beginning place.
“I received my degree from UofL, but I find that all of the hands-on experience I learn on site every day is just as, if not more, valuable to my career,” Church said. “The more I’m working, writing, studying and being in my career, I’m advancing all of my professional skills that lead me to bigger and better places.”
Photography by Andrew Dean.