Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What's A Docent?

The first time I heard the word, my first thought was that it might be a coin from some European country. After a quick check in the dictionary, I discovered that a docent is a person who acts as a guide in a museum. Yep, a volunteer who could even be asked to mop the floor if the need arises!

Now that I am finally retired, a volunteer job sounded like just the ticket, so I contacted the Columbia River Maritime Museum and learned that the annual docent training class was about to begin. I assumed that since it's a volunteer position, little would be expected but was I ever wrong! It turned out that the training class is eight weeks in length lasting for at least two hours per session. You were also expected to attend the eight, two hour enrichment lectures given weekly. Well, I decided to give it a try and as of last week, I completed the entire class except for the forty-five minute tour that you have to prepare and give to the museum's education director and a group of your peers.

I have a stack of research materials on the dining room table as I write along with pages and pages of notes. All of this has to be distilled into a talk will explain the history of the lower Columbia River, its people, and the many uses to which they have put the river. Hopefully, I can do justice to the topic because my presentation covers the time period beginning with the local Native Americans and goes up to Astoria's involvement in World War II. My presentation will also include information on what life at sea was like for a common sailor in the mid-1800s. In case you ever wondered, life at sea was incredibly difficult not to mention dangerous. It's a wonder that anyone ever did the job!

If I pass the final test so to speak, I hopefully will get to give an occasional tour to one of the many groups of tourist who visit the museum each year. If you come for a tour, maybe we'll get a chance to meet!

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