Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Docent's First Tour

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to give my first solo tour of the museum to a group of middle school students from Maryland. To say the least, it was an experience that I will remember for some time to come!

The group was to arrive promptly at nine thirty, so I checked into the museum at nine in order to walk the galleries to be sure everything was in place. I also had several "hand on props" to position which I planned to use during the tour. As I passed through the first gallery, I met with the education director who informed me that the new gallery on steam boats on the Columbia River had opened on Monday and surely I would want to include it on my tour. No problem, how difficult could it be to prepare a few remarks about a display you have never seen! Actually, I had already done a little research so as I headed to the new gallery, I was hoping to find a picture or model of the T J Potter. Fortunately for me and my group, the Potter held a prominent position in the gallery.

Now with less than ten minutes before show time, I head back to the main lobby only to be informed that my group just called and was running behind schedule. Apparently, they had blindly followed directions from their GPS unit and it took them the long way which added an hour to their already long trip. Next, a senior docent, who incidentally scares the hell out of me, approached and informs me that he has a tour of forty cruise ship folks arriving at eleven. He want me to be sure to get me tour start ASAP and then don't slow up or stop for any reason. No pressure here! Suddenly, I realize that this tour was not going to go anything like I had originally envisioned.

At ten thirty, my group arrived and the first thing I notice is that everyone looked like their pass port photos! The kids and chaperons had been on a non-stop tour and were on the verge of exhaustion and in less than five minutes, I was going to take them into a dimly lit environment with the hope that they wouldn't fall asleep while standing!

I am happy to report that for the most part, the tour went off without a hitch and judging by the numerous questions, the kids were listening and engaged. The moral of the story is that flexibility is of paramount importance when giving a tour!!

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