At Maine Historical Society, we like to think that every tour of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is special, and we know that a large part of what makes them special is the dedication and knowledge of our volunteer docents. On July 10, MHS’s newest crop of volunteer docents had the chance to ply their newly acquired tour-guiding skills for the very first time, delighting the visiting public with an open-house style tour of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s childhood home from a perspective the poet would have surely appreciated: a youthful one!
The hosts of the open house that day were fourth and fifth grade Portland-area students who had just completed MHS’s third annual Junior Docent Camp. Campers spent a week learning not only about the Longfellow family, their home, and Henry’s poetry, but also about what life was like for kids in the 19th century, the best practices for leading public tours, and about the work of history museums.
The camp was a unique opportunity for kids to interact with museum staff and collections in ways that are not often available to history buffs who are so young. Collections Manager Holly Hurd-Forsyth showed the campers objects from the collection, explaining how to handle historic artifacts and how they can be read just like books as a way to learn about the past. Director of Library Services Jamie Rice shared documents associated with the Wadsworth and Longfellow families and provided campers with a behind the scenes tour of the Brown Research Library.
Other popular activities included spirited rounds of “games of graces,” making butter, exploring the Portland Farmer’s Market, and even dipping candles. After escorting an impressive 59 visitors through the Wadsworth-Longfellow House in just two hours, the campers and their families celebrated their graduation from the program with a small ceremony in the Longfellow Garden.
For inquiries about the 2015 Junior Docent Camp, contact Kathleen Neumann at 207-774-1822 ext. 214, or firstname.lastname@example.org.