LOCKPORT – If you are interested in local history and have a little spare time to help share that knowledge with local schoolchildren, a volunteer opportunity is knocking.
The Niagara County Historical Society is looking for volunteer docents to help lead school and group tours through its five-building complex at 215 Niagara St.
“Being a docent is a lot of fun,” said Ann Marie Linnabery, the society’s education coordinator. “We have training sessions; we don’t just hand new docents a manual to read, and we have them follow veteran docents a few times. We also take them through each of the buildings and talk about the artifacts and history of them, and we have meetings to exchange information.”
The society’s museum complex includes five buildings, featuring an 1835 law office, an 1863 home, an 1885 home; a circa 1900 carriage house and a reconstructed barn. The buildings contain period rooms and exhibits relating to the history of Native Americans, early settlers, the Erie Canal, transportation, business and industry, the Civil War and the Victorian era.
Docents lead groups of 10 to 15 students or adults on tours lasting around an hour. Linnabery said schedules vary and are flexible, but docents usually need to be available on weekday mornings in order to accommodate school tours.
“We are very flexible,” Linnabery said. “Some docents volunteer once a week, and some volunteer once a month. We have about 10 to 15 volunteers on our roster, but several are inactive, and we’d like to beef up our numbers.”
Linnabery said the museum complex hosts around 2,000 schoolchildren each year, visiting from not only Niagara County, but Erie, Orleans and Genesee counties, as well. The majority of the schoolchildren are fourth-graders studying local history.
“We really cover all areas of local history, so we are a one-stop shop for all of the areas the teachers are looking for,” she said.
“The kids really get to experience history on a more tangible basis, rather than just looking at pictures in a textbook. They get to see artifacts here and in some cases, handle them, so they learn a little bit more about them. It’s a cliché, but it really brings history alive.”
Linnabery said spring and fall are particularly busy times for the school tours, so the society likes to train new volunteers in the late winter or early spring “before it gets really busy so that the docents are ready for the tours.”
She said an application process and training program will be scheduled later this winter. For more information on volunteering, call Linnabery at 434-7433.