SHERIDAN — Museums are usually “hands-off” places. Because they often house very old or very rare items, they tend to be places where visitors use their sense of sight, rather than sense of touch. Consequently, it can be challenging to engage young visitors. However, an annual summer program at Trail End State Historic Site allows young students to not only handle artifacts, but use them to create a unique display for other visitors to enjoy.
For the past three years, Trail End has hosted a docent program for local youth. The program is split into two workshops, with the first one held this year during the week of June 2-6.
The group of 10 students were able to go behind the scenes of the museum and not only visit areas usually off-limits to regular visitors, but were able to handle and research artifacts.
“They got to take the big tour of the museum and go past the Plexiglass, all the way from the boiler room to the attic. They went everywhere,” said Sharie Prout, curator and assistant site superintendent at Trail End.
During the week, the students inspected, learned how to clean and researched various artifacts in the museum’s collection with the goal of creating a new, unique exhibit at the end of the week. For their project, the students chose to create an informational panel and display of artifacts which belonged to Diana Cummings’ family, who married into the Kendrick family in 1929.
“They researched their artifacts, found out who used them, when, all those questions and took the information they found and made an informational text panel,” said Prout, who noted the exhibit will remain on public display until the museum closes for the season on Dec. 14. “And they all learned how to work together and get all their artifacts into this tiny exhibit space. We have lots of their (Cummings) items but we didn’t have any reason to put them out so this is a good opportunity to put out artifacts we’ve acquired but never shown.”
“Then by Friday night they had friends and family come and have a special sneak peek at their exhibit after the museum closed,” she continued. “We had 50 people show up which is our biggest one yet.”
The second docent program runs July 14-18 from 8 a.m. to noon and is open to all students in sixth grade or older. The second session, titled “Technopast,” will offer the participants the opportunity to create at least one video about the museum.
“The students are going to have the chance to help us develop fun, educational videos we can use in programs at the museum, online on our website and on Facebook, about museum-related issues or questions,” Prout said. “But they don’t have to have any experience with videography or anything. They just need an interest in history, an interest in working with technology and the willingness to work together in a group.”
Participation in the program requires just a $10 registration fee. Registration is open until July 9 or until the session limit of 10 participants is reached.