As an emerging museum professional, my favorite place to be is in the collections. I enjoy working with old artifacts, examining them, treasuring them, and keeping them safe for years to come. Whenever I am given the choice to work on a project within the collections, my friends and colleagues will always find me with my nose in an old book or digging in some old box covered in dust. Since coming to Banting House, I have been challenged to engage with our visitors and be active on some of our social media pages. While it has been very different from what I am used to, I have decided to share my thoughts about it in a blog post!
One of the biggest challenges I have faced is memorizing a script to give tours to our visitors. In every museum, there are too many artifacts to remember all of the details about and keeping a script is a very handy tool (especially for new tour guides like myself). I have always struggled to memorize things, which makes me chuckle because I am a historian constantly learning dates, names and places everywhere I go! So I changed my tactic. Instead of babbling away about history like a Shakespearean actor, I like to ask questions which, I like to think, makes a tour more engaging and fun!
My museum script!
(If you were wondering, inside it is COVERED in highlighter)
I like to ask our guests where they are visiting from, why they are in London and why did they choose to visit Banting House? I am never disappointed with the incredible stories I hear. I have had guests from Poland, Japan, Sweden, the Philippines, the state of Wisconsin and even from the London community! They tell me they wanted to walk through the life of Dr. Banting because they are Type 1 or Type 2 diabetics and his house is very special to them. Others have relatives who are diabetic and chose to come to learn more about the museum, and some just happened upon Banting House without realizing it!
I think the best part about this job is realizing that I learn just as much from our visitors, as they learn from me. Our guests share fun facts with me, they ask me engaging questions and they tell me what living with diabetes is like. I have learned things that, otherwise, I would have missed out on if I were in the collections, knee-deep in a pile of old newspapers! So, while learning the ropes and how to engage with our guests has been a challenge for me, I will never forget the faces of our guests who took the time to come to the museum and share their histories with me!
This post was written by Jessica Baptista, Museum Interpreter at Banting House NHSC. Jessica recently graduated with a B.A.H. in History from Queen’s University and is currently pursuing her Masters of Museum Studies graduate degree from the University of Toronto.