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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:33 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2550
Location: S.F. Bay Area
I'd imagine an ED would be practically leaping across the table to engage a person whose reputation preceded them. If your reputation did not precede you, they're not going to take your word on it; and NIH and "our way or the highway" syndrome would drive them to at least initially run you through the same docent path, simply so you can learn the Organization's Way of doing things, and allow you to distinguish yourself therein.

There's also the path of the paid specialist, but that does not move you along the docent path at all, when the job is done, so are you.


Informing other groups about the problem people, that seems to happen kind of informally due to cross-pollination among organizations in a particular area. Doing it as a formal index or website? Egads, the liability! See also what the Europeans think about the "right to be forgotten" and the inhuman way the Internet never forgets nor forgives, chaining people's reputation forever to the worst of their past regardless of accuracy or their efforts to better themselves in the interim.


Al, I was thinking along the lines that roving repair crews or local rip tracks may not have any in stock, or for that matter, pads, covers and the other ephemera needed to maintain plain bearing cars. What happens if the railroad rips a cover off? They don't want it turning into a complex insurance issue, they just want the riptrack to slap another one on.


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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Wed Oct 05, 2016 3:06 am 
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Posts: 1369
Location: Henderson Nevada
There are two issues here… Volunteers and their stories and presentations, and unofficial docents… those self proclaimed experts…

If you are the manager or otherwise responsible for a museum and volunteer program, your volunteers are your best friends, your best workers, but can be loose cannons… it is your responsibility to train them, to mentor them, to tell them what you expect.
If you fail in your responsibilities, the volunteers will self define their roles, and their presentations… If you, in your role as the museum, fail to communicate, it isn’t the volunteer’s problem, its yours.

This does not mean you have to order, or yell, or threaten, or otherwise be the backside of a donkey… it does mean that you need to communicate… You need to lay out expectations, and when a volunteer is out of line, you need to talk to them, explain what you, the museum expects, and why they didn’t meet that expectation... It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but if done well, and done early, it can be a successful conversation, with positive outcomes for both the museum and the volunteer.

The weird, socially difficult visitor/volunteer needs to be addressed earlier rather than later. An earlier intervention can be a simple, friendly conversation, a delayed intervention is never easy or friendly…

I am not a believer is scripts for docents… instead give them information and training, and continue to train… Include the why with the what… The what, the dates and such are much less important that the why… why it is important, what story the artifact, car or locomotive, has to say…

Treat them like friends… food is a good ice breaker… You cannot thank good volunteers enough.

Randy

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http://museums.nevadaculture.org/nsrmbc
http://www.nevadasouthern.com/
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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2019 12:35 am 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
I had a very interesting experience at the beginning of this month, and I thought about this thread at the time.
I was on a tour group, riding on a very well-known Narrow Gauge Railroad. I was talking with one of the docents riding the train, and I wanted to tell him about one of their members who had passed away. This guy was a friend of mine, who came up to help out there at least once a year. He passed away over a year before, and I was pretty sure nobody at the railroad have been made aware of it.
So, not knowing whether he knew the guy at all, I asked if he knew who this guy was, and was about to tell him he passed away. Instead, the docent immediately flipped the switch over to his normal shtick, about track gauges, and the like. All tailored around someone who didn't even know what a train was. I just looked at him, shook my head, and walked away.
The person running the tour came to me later and asked why I had such a disgusted look on my face. I explained to her what I was trying to tell him, and how he immediately went to a script and literally hadn't heard a word that I had said.
So, I still have no idea if anybody there knows that this guy had passed away.

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:09 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
When I was with TVRM, all trainmen were required to be able to act as tour guides. Guides were given historic facts about the railroad and history of key pieces of rolling stock in a manual. We did not use scripts, but provided narration examples that the tour guides could use to develop their own narrations.

For the tour of the shops, we also reminded the guides that they should look to confirm the locations of pieces, as the shop was switched periodically and things did move around. I had two different tour levels-basic for the general public and historian for railfans or rail preservationists.

We did spot check tour guides to make certain that they were providing accurate information and not saying things that should not be told. I never had any significant issues with our guides.

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:00 pm 
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Alan Walker wrote:
When I was with TVRM...
I've been there a couple of times in the last few years, and I think the quality of the volunteers who interact with the public has changed little (or not at all) since your time there.
TVRM is a class act. It's where I got my first cab ride (on SRR 630, and I was just 11 at the time) and they've been great each time I've gone there.
That said, not every place is like that, and you just never know when someone gets into the system who might not should be there...

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 7:18 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
p51 wrote:
Alan Walker wrote:
When I was with TVRM...
I've been there a couple of times in the last few years, and I think the quality of the volunteers who interact with the public has changed little (or not at all) since your time there.
TVRM is a class act. It's where I got my first cab ride (on SRR 630, and I was just 11 at the time) and they've been great each time I've gone there.
That said, not every place is like that, and you just never know when someone gets into the system who might not should be there...


I had the privilege of learning railroading from Bob and Joyce Soule. They literally drilled the importance of maintaining a standard of consistent, high quality service. Everybody who worked the station or train wore a standard uniform. In season, trainmen were expected to wear a vest and traditional trainman's coat in addition to the uniform cap. I remember preparing the train for excursion service-if I was the conductor, I would assist the crew in assembling the train whenever possible. I would always take care of advanced preparations the night before and passed that on to the others that I trained.

Why do advanced preparations? If I discover an issue, the car repairmen have twelve hours plus to address the problem-be it a mechanical problem or a stained/torn seat. If the preparations are done the day of the trip? Too bad! Every window shade was raised, all seats turned and the trip information flyers placed in a uniform spot on each pair of seats. That way, everything on the car looks uniform and like the person performing the task cared about how things look. People who weren't looking to advance their position at the railroad or have a high standard for themselves didn't last long there. We also gave our folks a fair degree of latitude on how to deal with situations where the standard wasn't maintained.

One day, I boarded the train and discovered that the janitor service had not cleaned one of the open window cars. It was extremely filthy-I couldn't have gotten the car presentable in an hour (which I didn't have). I set that car out on the shop track and picked up a replacement car at the other end and informed Bob. Bob confirmed my decision and had words with the janitor over that one. We taught our people that no detail was too minor not to be corrected. One of the signs in our crew room/break room said "Sign your work with excellence". TVRM has done that and will continue to do so in the future.

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:09 am 

Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 2:05 am
Posts: 58
Location: Glen Ellyn, IL
Let me make a few observations which may or may not be of value.

It seems to me that the first thing to consider when thinking about docents is the audience with whom they will be interacting. Is it going to be rivet counting railfans? Or, is it going to be families with only a casual interest in the minutia of railroad technology and trivia?

I suspect that, at most rail museums, the “family” is the audience. That being so, the training of docents (and others who may interact with the public) needs to be geared to this audience, and not to the rivet counters. For example, what should a docent say about a particular steam loco? Should he or she dwell on the wheel arrangement or other railfan trivia (which is an open invitation for any visiting rivet counters to publicly embarrass the docent)?

The real message docents should be conveying should transcend railfan trivia. This is a steam locomotive. Yes, you need to say when it was built and where it was used. But the big question is why it is of any significance other than being a piece of thoroughly obsolete machinery that should have been scrapped long ago? The reason is that the steam locomotive is the machine that made modern America possible.

Without the steam locomotive, you don’t have the national railroad network, and without the national railroad network, you don’t have modern America. It’s the steam locomotive and the railroad network it created that made America into a national economy. For example, a steel producer like Andrew Carnegie didn’t only sell steel in the Pittsburgh area. The railroad network – and the steam loco’s that made the network possible – enabled Carnegie to sell steel to the entire nation. Amazon seems like a big deal today. But it’s not really new. Back in the 19th century, big mail order companies like Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward did essentially the same thing that Amazon does today. But they did it by using the mail (for orders) and the railroads (for delivery). Passenger travel is another example. Before steam locos and railroads, a trip across the U.S. was a brutal trip that might take 4-6 months. The steam locomotive and the railroad reduced this to about 7 days in the 19th century. That’s long compared to an airplane ride of today, but unbelievable fast in a pre-airline era. People could travel regularly, not just once in a lifetime. This is the story to tell a general audience.

You wind up by saying what happened to steam locos – why they were replaced by diesels.


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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:28 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
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Location: Maine
Decent docents depict and deseminate, and don't deter with disinformation.

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 4:13 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
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My biggest complaint is when riding a train I don’t want to hear an endless speech. Point out some facts sure, but let me enjoy the experience of riding the train!

Strasburg has a nice middle ground where they give the tour on the way, and let you ride in peace on the return. For a shorter ride that works quite well. Even better, at Durango you get no narration in coach, but can pay extra for a historic narration car.


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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 7:56 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
My biggest complaint is when riding a train I don’t want to hear an endless speech. Point out some facts sure, but let me enjoy the experience of riding the train!



So true. None of the trains I worked had PA systems and our road didn’t have car hosts. We would provide tour guides if requested by a group. On our short runs, trainmen didn’t have time to play tour narrator and on the long trips, the flyers placed at each seat gave the history and local points of interest. If a passenger had a question, we’d answer those but we had too many other duties to attend to as we typically had only a conductor and one or two trainmen for a train with two hundred plus passengers.

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:01 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2016 1:15 pm
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Yes Alan! I remember riding the TVRM trains before they had PA systems and I always felt like that was a good balance. The conductors / trainmen would point out a few interesting facts here and there but for the most part you could really experience the train ride.

Illinois Railway museum is another great example of this.


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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 8:29 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
Yes Alan! I remember riding the TVRM trains before they had PA systems and I always felt like that was a good balance. The conductors / trainmen would point out a few interesting facts here and there but for the most part you could really experience the train ride.

Illinois Railway museum is another great example of this.


That and the obligatory announcement to keep the body parts you want to keep inside the car at all times (in the open air cars).

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"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896


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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:05 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 12:45 am
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Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
Yes Alan! I remember riding the TVRM trains before they had PA systems and I always felt like that was a good balance. The conductors / trainmen would point out a few interesting facts here and there but for the most part you could really experience the train ride.

Illinois Railway museum is another great example of this.


Trust me, IRM, has at least one carhost/docent/blithering idiot in desperate need of having a dirty sock shoved into his mouth.

Jeff

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 6:11 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Jdelhaye wrote:
Crescent-Zephyr wrote:
Yes Alan! I remember riding the TVRM trains before they had PA systems and I always felt like that was a good balance. The conductors / trainmen would point out a few interesting facts here and there but for the most part you could really experience the train ride.

Illinois Railway museum is another great example of this.


Trust me, IRM, has at least one carhost/docent/blithering idiot in desperate need of having a dirty sock shoved into his mouth.

Jeff


Every railroad museum has one of them. We had considered additional signage while I was there, but decided against it due to the fact that the yards at both ends of the railroad were regularly switched (depending on operational demands). Thus various pieces of rolling stock were routinely shuffled around.

We kept our eyes on the volunteers, looking for the ones who ones who showed potential for advancement and those that needed monitoring. One fellow was a good railroader, but just (at that time) didn't have the temperament to be a conductor on the excursion trains. Another was an older volunteer who tried his best but ultimately just didn't have what it took to be a conductor. We'd let him work, but under supervision of another qualified trainman.

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 Post subject: Re: Curb Your Docents
PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 6:36 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
There was a traction/trolley operation that I had some experience with where, I was quietly told offsite, one particular qualified operator was put in the proverbial "penalty box" after it was reported that during the end-of-line layover where trolley poles were changed and a quick five-minute lecture about the role of trolleys in urban transit and American life years ago (and the history of the specific car ridden) was given, the operator in question would ramble off into spouting the entire National City Lines "conspiracy theory" lock, stock, and barrel, essentially trying to convince everyone that the only reason every city didn't still have trolleys today was GM, Firestone, et al. Supposedly he even went off at times into other barely related political topics--and that was the final straw.

From what I was told, he was then no longer allowed to take out one-man cars by himself, and when running a two-man car the conductor, not he, was the only one authorized to speak. Which, if true, was a bit of a shame, because he was supposedly a loyal, skilled, and diligent operator in other ways, and lived close enough to be regularly available.

I believe there was/is even an order issued by the museum's curator to only discuss NCL, etc. specifically if a rider brings up the subject--it is relevant to the specific operation in question, being in/near a city where NCL took over and phased out rail operations--but only to try and diplomatically present the issue accurately (yes, NCL happened; no, it's not the "only reason we still don't have streetcars"...).


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