Museum Youth Ambassadors find fun in history
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — “When I grow up, I’m thinking about working in a museum,” said 10 year-old Alexa Peevers.
“This is a good place to start,” she added.
That passion for history is a common theme among the four students who are participating in the Carbon County Museum’s Youth Tour Ambassador program.
The program, which was started this summer by Lauren Hunley, the museum’s education and outreach coordinator, involves bringing in students with a passion for the past as summer volunteers.
The students are doing real work on behalf of the museum, and also learning more about local history and the tasks museum professionals do on the job.
The youth ambassadors each choose two exhibits at the museum to learn more about so that they can conduct public tours of that exhibit. They also each develop a new exhibit to fill a case near the entrance to the museum, based upon their own interests.
On Wednesday, 10 year-old Tia Lopez was setting up an exhibit she had created on historic dolls.
“I wanted to create an exhibit about dolls because I think they are really interesting. I searched out what dolls and pictures I wanted to use and then I did some writing about them,” Tia said.
Tia selected items from the museum’s education collection, including a porcelain-headed doll whose dress is a bit worn. Then she wrote the text for the informational labels for the exhibit.
Hunley is pleased with how the Youth Ambassador program is working out, since it is the first summer the museum has offered the program.
“Getting four really committed students is a plus,” she said.
The students volunteer for one two-hour shift per week. This is not make-work — during their shift, Ambassadors spend time assisting with museum chores such as dusting and updating the visitor log, and they also spend time working on their exhibit and learning tour guide skills, like greeting visitors as they come into the museum. The Ambassadors proudly put on their staff name badges when they arrive for their shift.
Twelve year-old Joanna Zabala was carefully cutting items out of the newspaper, helping the museum keep their archive of obituaries and birth announcements up-to-date.
“Last summer I came and volunteered for one day, and I thought it was really fun,” Joanna said. In school, Joanna said her favorite classes are history and literature.
Handling the obituaries can be a little tough, she said.
“I read a little bit about it, see where they were from, who their family was. Sometimes I feel a little sad,” she said.
Joanna has been working on learning about the museum’s Native Americans exhibit. She can tell you about how young men had to ‘count coup’ by conducting acts of bravery and daring to earn their eagle feathers.
The talkative Tabitha Kennedy, 12, has already completed her exhibit about historic board games. Now she is working on learning more about Thomas Edison so she can offer tours of that exhibit.
“He didn’t invent the light bulb, you know, he perfected it,” she said. “I’m trying to learn everything about it…what I’m looking forward to is giving tours,” she said.
But for Alexa, she’s not sure what will be included in her exhibit, which will be about education.
“Since my exhibit is going up last, I have more time to research,” she said.
And, she said, “I’m planning on doing this next summer.”
The student Ambassador program will conclude in mid-August with an open house for friends and family, where the students get to show off what they have learned.
“The girls will be responsible for taking care of the event,” Hunley said.