Taking a tour from Meh to Great

Here’s a recent AASLH post that I was interested in based on my own work in historic homes. I am 50/50 on this one, while I think she makes great points, I don’t know if she’s taking in more practical elements of what she experienced. For one, I know personally from being a tour guide many times that group size, interest and a million other things can effect a tour. She mentions “missed opportunities” seen from an outsider professional used to analyzing these things, without taking into account that like her son that other visitors less experienced or trained in the area could have still had a good, impactful experience. Second, she mentions the amount of people and the power of place by saying they should have “re-lived” an experience of the people of the home, that’s a hit or miss on whether its just something she’d enjoy and if anyone else would have. I for one would have dreaded such a thing hating small spaces or being in involuntary  close contact with strangers. Even if the site wanted to do it, it would still be a voluntary suggestion as the guide made it, it’s about the whole group’s visitors experience, not just your own. Places like the Holocaust museum in DC do practice these more psychological power of place techniques but I feel they’re one established enough to have  it as  an impacting part of their experience. Next, she starts off with the guide discussing the sister site and what he isn’t going to discuss, I think that’s pretty practical, no one wants to be riddled with facts twice and it’s likely some visitors not from the area might be visiting both that day. The call to action is good, I do this with my own adopt a book program, and mentioning making it a social experience is great, it is very important to create a dialogue in these tours, it last more enjoyable even for the guides. Finally with listening to visitors, I agree on the point but as seen above not the experience she related it with, an example from the comments fits better, where someone interested in art mentioned it and had to continue to address it with her guide. You should try to shape a tour to your audience, not always possible with big groups, but I give mostly small tours and I often find my tour is rarely the same or strictly an hour long. The only issue I have with the comment is that it’s possible the guide wasn’t that well trained in the art despite her interest. I’m the librarian and archivist, I often mention things from those collections that connect to my tour but I’m the last person to ask about art techniques or exacting details of our decorative arts. I could get better if I’m there doing it long enough, with rigorous study and time, so that’s a consideration too. I still think she makes valid points to consider if you’re involved in historic sites though.





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