Our introduction post to defining the job of a historical interpreter, determining the requirements of the position, and describing the written and mostly unwritten qualities that make for successful public interactions. Do you have what it takes?
[Featuring a Guest Interview with GCV&M Interpreter Judy J.]
This reveal-all post offers both a first-hand account and an exclusive, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the day of a historical house interpreter at the Genesee Country Village. Delve into the day-to-day responsibilities and public interactions that make the role so rewarding.
Connecting History to School-Age Children
Overcoming the Challenge of a Multi-generational Audience
Are You Hot in That? Tips for Beating the Summer Heat
"I am the Lead Interpreter for Community Lifeways at Genesee Country Village and Museum. In my six seasons at the village, I have worked in the following buildings: Altay Store, McKay House, Hosmer’s Inn, Romulus Female Seminary, Livingston-Backus Kitchen, Thomson’s Tavern, Schoolhouse, Hetchler House, Jones Farm, and Hamilton House; plus, I tour-guide for school field trips, act in our Halloween and Christmas programs, participate in our historic dance troupe, and occasionally bake treats for our historic Confectionary. A little over a year ago I also began overseeing the Hosmer’s Inn Dinners, the Pioneer Experience, the Ladies Vintage Baseball, and nine of the historic buildings with their interpreters and daily programs. I interpret history because LIVING history is what made me excited about the past. My mom has always been big into family genealogy, and it was seeing the family antiques and hearing the stories about them that got me interested in learning about the past, rather than just reading dry facts from a textbook."
"There are some people who would consider history boring, but to me there are many parts of history that stir up a longing and excitement. Interpreting in the village, I desire to know more than basic architectural details or artifact information. I want to know the people who lived and breathed within those walls, as each of us in our own unique little way changes the lives of others, thereby impacting history, even if only a small bit. There is little that gives me greater joy than learning about those lives of the people we represent, and then sharing those facts with the visitors who come pursuing the past. I have been inspired by those who came before us, and I hope by sharing things I have learned will create in our visitors a deeper appreciation for our ancestors and the fortitude in which they lived."
Edmund Burke said it best, warning that "those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." What better way to keep a shared past contemporary than by donning the clothing and living it? I love history and interacting with visitors from all walks of life - and through the role of historical interpreter, I can do both. I truly believe in the missions of living history sites - to not only educate, but to inspire - and, can only hope to contribute to the unmatched breadth and depth of opportunities by learning right alongside our guests.
Photograph courtesy of Judy J.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the "Historical Interpretation How Tos" series are solely those of the authors and those proving comments, respectively, alone. All views are based on personal experience, from observation and interpretation practice, not employers, for the purposes of respectful conversation and impression enrichment. Discussion is widely encouraged.