As floor managers, we sometimes spend hours interacting with visitors—some of whom are more cheerful than others after a long visit to the nation’s capitol. These experiences make us even more impressed by the efforts of the museum’s amazing team of historical facilitators who make our daily programs possible. Our troupe of five is responsible for the behind-the-scenes legwork that makes our historical theater programs happen.
A typical day for a facilitator begins with a quick meeting and then at trip around the museum before the building opens to run sound checks and make sure props and equipment are in the right place.
Next up, the fun part—running the shows! Each facilitator spends 30 minutes prepping for a show by setting up stools and stanchions—an unrewarding job they do with a smile! Once the show begins, their roles vary depending on their assignments. They might run a Q&A session about the Civil Rights Movement or set up some of our WWII-era props. Perhaps they will cue music for a song program or encourage a child to meet a historic character. Facilitators also bring out original or reproduction items that you can touch. They might take out our original 1952 Kelsey Printing Press and let you print your own card. On some days, they will even let you hold a reproduction Brown Bess Rifle, the type used in the American Revolution.
On your next visit, you might chat with some of our facilitators. Look for Anna to teach you about rice growing in the South Carolina Lowcountry or Shani to help you experience what it was like for Mary Pickersgill to sew the Star Spangled Banner. Discuss with Bob his personal experiences participating in the Civil Rights Movement or speak with Kiah about reproduction items from the Revolutionary War. And keep an eye out for Lara who can tell you all about stereoscopes—items a lot like the Viewfinders you might have at home!
Many thanks to our facilitators, whose passion to help people connect with history fuels the success of our many programs.
Johanna Mutz and Erin Nielsen are floor managers at the National Museum of American History.