Museum’s first class of trained docents means expanded hours

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 4:47 PM | Webmaster BHM (Administrator)
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The Beaufort History Museum’s first class of volunteer docents will allow the museum to expand its hours and provide visitors with a more enjoyable and educational experience. Pictured, from left, are board member and docent training coordinator Anna Schaffer; Debra Sunderwirth; Julie Michau; board member and newly minted docent Gwen Myers; Nancy Andrepont; Carol Lauvray; Ray Gilligan; Lorrie Burleyknoles; and Leigh Spencer. Not pictured: Carla Marsh, Alex Marsh, Robbie Robertson, Louise Biedermann and board member and docent Alvesta Robertson.

(Editor’s note: New classes of docents are trained regularly. For information about our fall 2014 sessions, download the information packet here.)

Many visitors to the Beaufort History Museum are content to wander through the collection unguided, soaking up the experience on their own. But many appreciate the help of a docent, who can bring the exhibits to life by providing background, telling stories and answering questions.

In fact, experiencing the museum with a docent is exactly what we recommend, and soon, that will be easier for our members and patrons.

The first class of trained docents graduated Oct. 17, giving us 13 additional volunteers to make your visit more enjoyable and informative. Best of all, the additional staffing means we can expand hours and — for the first time since the museum re-opened in Beaufort City Hall in early 2011 — we will offer weekend hours.

Starting Nov. 1, the museum at 1911 Boundary St. in Beaufort will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

“Any small-town museum is only as strong as its volunteer corps,” said Beaufort History Museum board president Katherine Lang. “Having a vibrant docent group allows this museum to be sustainable.”

The docent training program was coordinated by Anna Schaffer, another member of our all volunteer Board.  Applicants attended five, two-hour sessions, during which they learned about Beaufort’s rich history, from ancient times to the arrival of Europeans to the creation of the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

“From this group, I really sensed we have not just a group of volunteers, but a group of active volunteers,” Schaffer said. “They all came in with research they have done on their own; they all came in with interest in local history and ideas about field trips we could take other than the ones scheduled.

“This was really a roundtable experience with very knowledgable people. … And they now have an outlet to do what they love.”

The group includes:

Henry “Robbie” Robertson, who started a second career as a nurse after a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Louise Beiderman, who was a member of the Friends of the Beaufort Museum in the 1990s.

Ray Gilligan, a salesman by trade and a lifetime sailor, Gilligan is a Bluffton resident with a abiding interest in area history.

Dataw residents Alex Marsh, a retired marine biologist, and his wife, Carla, who is on the board of an historical organization in Boca Raton, Fla., their other home.

Nancy Andrepont, who is a kayaker and the mother of some of Beaufort’s strongest swimmers;

Gwen Myers, the Beaufort History Museum board vice president and owner of the Beaufort Clothing Company.

Carol Lauvray, who hails from Ohio , where she worked in public relations and marketing, and was one of the first people to move to the Midtown development in Beaufort’s Northwest Quadrant neighborhood.

Julie Michau, a long-time resident of the Old Point neighborhood.

Lorrie Burleyknoles, a military wife and former manager at Whitehall.

Lee Spencer, a recent transplant from Denver, Colo.

Alvesta Robertson, also a museum board member. She is the historian of her church and taught at the historic Mather School in the late 1960s.

Debra Sunderwirth works full-time as a dental hygienist at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

For all their diversity, these newest contributors and members of the Beaufort History Museum family have in common a love of Beaufort, history, and learning, a desire to contribute to their community, and a sense of adventure. They are having fun together, going on field trips and planning new ones, and adding their own knowledge to the group.

Sunderwirth will be at the museum on Sunday afternoons, the one day, as she puts it “she can do something for herself.” Lauvray says she came to Beaufort because it is not only beautiful, but a “real place.” Robbie Robertson says he has never done anything in his life that he didn’t love, and we’re confident that will include helping museum visitors get the most out of our exhibits.

Sound like fun to you, too?

The first training session went so well, Schaffer has decided to follow quickly with a second session. An informational meeting is set for 10 a.m. Oct. 31 at the museum. To fit our volunteers’ schedules, they can choose sessions from 10 a.m. to noon or from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dates are Nov. 7, 14, 21 (no classes Thanksgiving week) and Dec. 5, 12. Don’t let a schedule conflict deter you from volunteering, either — make-up sessions Dec. 8 and 15 will accommodate those who miss one of the regular classes or who want to complete the training on the weekends. Docents are required to become museum members, if they are not already. In addition, there is a $25 charge to cover the cost of training materials and other supplies.

Our mission is to preserve, promote and interpret the experiences of our past that influence us now and in the future.

The Beaufort History Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902

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