Finally I have sometime to sit down and consider a few conversations I have had recently.
Back in mid-May I attended LLCC's "Welcome Visitors," which was the lead off to Community Learning's intensive Interpreter training week. (http://www.llcc.edu/commed/CommunityLearning/tabid/989/Default.aspx) The evening was very interesting, and the speakers discussed the role in customer service at historical sites. I wish I could have participated in the whole week of classes, but that weekend was already booked.
This was followed by Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org), and conversations with many of the volunteers about what all had needed to be done to prepare for the festival.
I had had a little sample of the preparation, since I had been out that week to help dust, and I have to salute all of those who had been at it continually.
All of this is on top of keeping the site open weekly, and for private functions, such as weddings.
Later, thinking over the week, I considered how fragile the support is for many of our historical sites, since so many of the volunteers are retired individuals; many of whom are elderly. The main thing driving them is their great love of history, and their particular site.
It's not just Clayville that faces this, but many of the smaller sites, where the main bulk of their volunteers are in their later years. And the work they do isn't just talking to people and taking them on tours - it can require cleaning and some heavy work.
Now I'll grant that for Clayville's many festivals there is help of all ages, but the normal, weekly, part falls to just a few people.
What happens when they can't do it anymore?
Who will step in?
Places such as Clayville, the Elijah Iles House, and the Grand Army of the Republic - to name a few - are staffed by dedicated people, but the demands can be hard. These individuals strive daily to see the stories of these places told, and that the sites live on for other generations to know where history happened.
It also made me wonder if we couldn't create a youth volunteer program for historic sites, such as what is done with the Henson Robinson Zoo (http://www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org/page.php?8) and Lincoln Memorial Gardens (http://www.lincolnmemorialgarden.org/programsatthegarden.html)? Maybe there is one. Hopefully there is. And if not, one should be created as we need one to train future custodians of these sites.
But foremost, I offer a challenge - take some time this summer to help at a historic site. They need people to help keep them clean and ready for visitors.
And to preserve the property.
Plus you are helping the city by showing our many attractions in their best light to visitors.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.