Ball State alumnus Shaun Payne serves as site manager for Limberlost State Historic Site

<p>The Limberlost State Historic Site is dedicated to preserving Hoosier author, photographer and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter’s legacy. According to Inside Indiana Business, Stratton-Porter is Indiana’s most-read female author. <strong>Aimed Photography via Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Photo Provided</strong></p>

The Limberlost State Historic Site is dedicated to preserving Hoosier author, photographer and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter’s legacy. According to Inside Indiana Business, Stratton-Porter is Indiana’s most-read female author. Aimed Photography via Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, Photo Provided

Reach out to Shaun Payne

Shaun Payne encouraged students currently in the historic preservation graduate program or those interested to reach out to him at shpayne@indianamuseum.org.

Source: Shaun Payne, 2013 Ball State master’s alumnus and site manager for Limberlost State Historic Site

In Geneva, Indiana, there is a home that once belonged to Indiana author Gene Stratton-Porter named Limberlost State Historic Site.

Stratton-Porter’s family moved to the cabin in Geneva in 1888, and she lived there for 18 years. She wrote six of her 12 novels at this house, including “Freckles” and “A Girl of the Limberlost,” along with five of her nature books, according to the Limberlost State Historic Site.

Shaun Payne, 2013 Ball State historic preservation graduate program alumnus, serves as the site manager for Limberlost State Historic Site. Payne has been the site manager for the Limberlost State Historic Site for a little more than two months. As the site manager, Payne is the only full-time employee at the site. He has a team made up of three people, one of whom is Curt Burnette, and he has been working for the site for about 10 years.

Payne’s duties include creating programs, budgeting and purchasing for the site, but his favorite task is leading tours of Stratton-Porter’s cabin.

“It's just fun to meet all the different people that come in,” Payne said. “There's people that have never heard of Gene Stratton-Porter before, and so they're just shocked to learn about her and everything that she accomplished in her time.”

Payne had to do three Zoom interviews for the position, including one with the north region manager and the vice president of operations at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. Payne said the entire hiring process took around two months to complete. He applied for the position May 15 and officially received it July 17.

Before Payne received his master’s degree from Ball State, he attended three other universities to receive his bachelor’s degree in history. He started in Alabama at the University of Mobile, transferred to Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida and finally graduated from Anderson University in 2009.

“We lived in Florida for three years while my dad was on recruiting duty and that's how he found out about the school,” Payne said. “And I was there for one year because I met my wife there and she's originally from Anderson, Indiana, and she ended up transferring back to Indiana to go to Ball State … so I followed her.”

Originally, Payne wanted to be a high school history teacher. However, when the 2008 recession hit and there was a job crisis, he decided to get his master’s degree in teaching with plans to eventually get his doctorate to teach at the university level. 

One of his Anderson University professors, Joel Shrock — a Ball State graduate — recommended the history department to Payne, and he applied for his master’s in summer 2009.

“I wasn't enjoying it as much as I thought I would,” Payne said. “I was looking through course catalogs, and I found Historic Preservation [and thought] ‘Oh, this is interesting —  it sounds like something I would enjoy.’” 

Shaun Payne, 2013 Ball State historic preservation graduate program alumnus, serves as the site manager for Limberlost State Historic Site. Some of his responsibilities include purchasing materials, planning programs and leading tours. Shaun Payne, Photo Provided

After discovering the historic preservation program, Payne spoke with the director of the historic preservation graduate program at the time, Duncan Campbell, an associate professor of architecture.

Payne met with Campbell to speak about the differences between teaching history and working with history. From this meeting, Payne found historic preservation was more aligned with what he wanted to do.

“I thought I would enjoy a more hands-on approach, which is what historic preservation kind of afforded me, is that instead of talking about history, you're actually involved [and] immersed in it,” Payne said.

When Payne was in the historic preservation graduate program, which he joined before the spring 2010 semester, it was a two-year program that required around 60 credits to graduate. Under new leadership, it is now a one-year program with 30 and 36 credit hour options.

Campbell, who received his master’s from Columbia University, focused on recruiting students to the historic preservation graduate program and expanding the curriculum. He used Columbia’s larger program as a model.

“That was what I liked the best about it,” Campbell said. “[It] was trying to kind of revamp the program and upgrade it and improve it — and also bring in more students.”  

Campbell also expanded the program to make it available for architecture and history students. For graduate students, the historic preservation program lasted two years and required a full-time thesis, he said. Most of the students in the program also had an assistantship.

While Payne was enrolled in the graduate program, he was at a pivotal moment in his life after getting married to his wife, Ashley Payne, in 2010. They lived in the Scheidler Apartments across from Scheumann Stadium while both of them were attending Ball State.

“We still reminisce about [how] that was our favorite place to live being married,” Payne said.

Ashley Payne was enrolled in Ball State from 2008-12. She majored in legal studies and now works as a paralegal at a law firm in Bluffton, Indiana. 

Shaun Payne described the atmosphere of Ball State as being “a Midwestern college experience [that] still [has] that hometown [feel].”

“And the resources were certainly better at a bigger school like Ball State,” Payne said. “I mean, the main library, Bracken Library, [is] just amazing — bigger than all three libraries at the other schools combined.”

Payne said he appreciated the caliber of professors Ball State had along with having “the ability to have all the information at your fingertips.”

“You have people that are some of the best people in their fields teaching you,” Payne said.

Before he worked at the Limberlost State Historic Site, Payne worked at Indiana state park Salamonie Lake, located in Andrews, Indiana. He heard about the opening at Limberlost from a coworker whose significant other was the regional ecologist at Limberlost.

Payne said his time at Ball State helped him learn how to perform his duties as the site manager. The classes he took for repairing historic structures have been useful for his current position because he has to maintain Stratton-Porter’s cabin, and his architecture classes have helped him share facts on tours. 

Campbell taught one of Payne’s favorite classes. In this class, Payne was able to talk about architectural history theories and preservation issues.

“[It] was definitely my favorite class because we were able to organically learn because we were able to just talk about everything,” Payne said.

Payne advises Ball State students “to do something in your degree field … anything entry-level that you can do that gets some experience.”

Contact Hannah Amos with comments at hannah.amos@bsu.edu or on Twitter @HannahA15361356

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