I’ve been back to work for about 3 weeks now, and it has been a bit hectic adjusting to a new schedule, (not to mention having to dress properly in something other than yoga pants and comfy t-shirts…) Spring time for me is always a little crazy, I’m often doing two-three plus different types of jobs within the park system. I love it, it’s fun to work at all our different sites and do different things for a while. A big part of my job as a Historic House Interpreter is getting our sites ready to open to the public. We have three historic houses that we take care of. One of which is the 1830’s family home where we cook in the kitchen, craft in the sitting room, and have a small herb garden in the back. Working in the downtown buildings, cleaning and organizing, is very hard work, but it’s also one of my favorite things to do. It’s a labor of love really.
I always start in the Biddle House, that is our home base for the HHI’s. Before I do anything else I spend a few quiet moments in the kitchen, lighting the first small fire of the season. There I ask for blessings over the houses, the women working in them and the visitors who will come through them. I also burn a small bit of sage to honor Agatha Biddle’s Oddawa background, she was a really amazing woman, who’s story we faithfully try to tell. This is a relatively new tradition, but one I am fond of, it helps to get the season started in a positive way.
Once that task has been completed, it’s time to get dirty! Over the month of May we spend hours in the buildings. Cleaning up cobwebs, sweeping the floors, scrubbing the baseboards, the mantel piece. We wash all the dishes and season all the cast iron. The garden is cleared of debris and firewood stacked neatly by the hearth. Upstairs we store all the food we use to cook, I organize the mailboxes and hang encouraging posters, and friendly reminders. We stock our libraries with all kinds of good books, we gather our clothing, dresses, shoes and all the accessories. By and by it all gets done, and soon the doors will be open to warmly welcome the first visitors of the season.
We also have a “christmas” of sorts, as we gleefully open up the cardboard boxes containing all kinds of new goodies that were ordered over the winter. New hats to wear at the Fort, gorgeous new dishes for the kitchen, lovely aprons, shoes, books, petticoats, jewelry, and there is always a few new dresses to admire!
There is something very satisfying about having sparkling, organized buildings ready and waiting when June rolls around.
I’ll be starting on the nitty gritty cleaning next week with some of the staff who’ve arrived early.
I don’t know how often you’ve encountered interpreters (of living history or nature) is there anything you’ve always wanted to know, but never had the chance to ask? Drop me a line, I’d love to answer your questions.
Next time I’ll share a bit about what’s involved in the training to become a Historic House Interpreter.