I was debating how to begin this post and I really cannot find any other way than by saying … the last three months have been a whirlwind! But not a “Dorothy stuck in a tornado” whirlwind, more of a Charlie going through the chocolate factory type whirlwind – full of delightful surprises at every turn.
Villa Finale’s very first Guide training began in May with a class of nine. Due to the site opening in the fall, we were forced to conduct classes during the summer. This created a sticky situation as people were eager to become Guides but they also had well-deserved vacations planned and paid for. So what to do? Rather than lose so many enthusiastic folks, I and the rest of the National Trust staff assisting with training worked with individual vacations. I was moved to discover that some of our trainees even took class materials on vacation … now that’s dedication!
Mary, one of our Guides-to-be, even wore her Villa Finale t-shirt while on a trip to Washington, D.C. to help us get the word out. She and her daughter, Elizabeth wore their shirts while visiting Woodrow Wilson House, another National Trust Historic Site and former site of our busy curator, Meg Nowack.
We were also fortunate enough to have additional folks call along the way and express interest in becoming Guides. When I informed them they would need to catch up with the materials, they weren’t the least bit deterred which of course made me very giddy! They promptly came in, took orientation, and were quickly immersed with all the materials. Now, this is where I have to thank the rest of our trainees – they have done an amazing job of taking late-comers under their wings and answering any and all questions.
In-class sessions ended the last weekend in July and now Guide trainees have been busy helping Meg reassemble the house – what better way
to familiarize yourself with the collection than reassembling the exhibits! – and walking through the house practicing their tours. I should also say that in addition to being incredibly enthusiastic, our Guides-to-be are also dedicated. Last Saturday most of us went out to La Mansion del Rio’s breakfast buffet and all of them shared pointers with one another and gave me some wonderful feedback to share with the rest of the staff — and of course, we also shared many laughs! Everyone agreed that we should make it a regular habit. (A great big “thank you” to the staff at Las Canaria’s Restaurant for their top-notch hospitality.)
So many of our Guides have told me how much they appreciate Villa Finale’s flexibility with their schedules and eagerness to answer questions about training materials — however, it is Villa Finale that is eternally grateful to this wonderful class of now fourteen for learning the material without really ever seeing the house in all its glory … not an easy task by any means!
I would like to mention one more thing: last week as trainees were walking through the house, I sat back to listen to their conversations about preservation, architecture and the collections … if tours are half as engaging as what I heard, our visitors are due for a quite a treat! Thank you inaugural Villa Finale Guide class — we could not have wished for a better group of folks! (If you would like to be a Guide at Villa Finale, go to the “Volunteer” section and fill out an application. Our next Guide training will be held in January – more details coming soon.)