If you have ever travelled to a new town, village, or city, where you have wanted to learn something about the people, their homes, their work, the history of their people, their businesses, or what their town is noted for, you probably picked up a newspaper, read all the brochures made available, and if you were lucky, you ran into some locals at the coffee shop who told you about their town and answered all the questions you might have had.
The locals know a lot. If you’re not in a hurry, they will be glad to tell you what you should see and get to know about their town. They can tell if you are really interested. The conversation might very well begin with “Where are you from?” After that introduction, you will learn more than you ever thought would be forthcoming from this stranger.
It’s just conversation, isn’t it? Sharing stories, asking questions, listening, getting more interested, and finally you come to realize you want to know more about this place. Well, you learn that they have a local history museum. You make your way to the museum and you are, no doubt, greeted by the smiling face of a docent. Yes, a docent who is very much like the stranger you met at the coffee shop. Well, they may have a little more information to share with you because they have had some instruction about the history of the town, the people, their work, etc., but you find that they give you time to share your interests too. That’s pretty much what a docent is; someone who likes people, conversation, likes talking about the place where they live and also enjoys learning about the visitor.
Our Old Anderson House Museum and the Corner of the Past is a place where, if you want conversation, information, to see historic artifacts, enjoy meeting people, young and old, visitors, and ‘happy talk’, you can find many opportunities. We, at the Corner of the Past have the need for friendly docents as our museum is growing and reaching out to the community in many ways.
Read what Susie Smith, our Head Docent, has written as she begins her third year at the Corner of the Past in Sister Bay.
As I head into my third summer here at the C.O.T.P., I can’t help but think how lucky I am. I didn’t know what a docent was when I started. I think I can define it pretty well now and it starts very simply with being a good listener.
My job is to make sure every encounter I have with a paying customer is a good one. What I have to do is determine what people want. Some people want facts, some people like stories, some people just want to “experience” the surroundings, and then my favorite—the ‘reminiscers’. When they walk through the door, you sense it. They have a story to tell and I get to listen!
This year has just begun and I am so excited about all the new things happening around here, but that’s next year’s story.
I could tell many more stories, but why don’t you just come by and visit with me some day and see how much fun it is to “docent”. All you need is a love for the museum and history and the ability to listen.