Working in a historic home is very sentimental and truly an honor. The intimacy of preserving the legacy of an icon while depicting their biography with a tangible piece of their life– their home, in my opinion, is the best type of archival material. The old saying, “home is where the heart is”, can be used as testament to the experience of a house museum. Entering into the heart of a legend.
My fellowship at Louis Armstrong House Museum began with two-weeks of “bootcamp” at the House and the Archives. For those of you that aren’t aware, LAHM operates at two separate locations. The home of Louis and Lucille Armstrong in Corona Queens and the Archives, housed at Queens College. For me, boot camp or training, started at in the archives. Under the supervision of Ricky Riccardi (Director of Collections) and Sarah Rose (Collections Manager), I’ve become acclimated with the functionality of the archives (i.e. scope of collections, accommodating researchers, cataloging, stack tours, etc.) Much like the Archives for the house museum that I worked at prior to LAHM, the archives is much quieter and less visited than the house. However, the archives is such a pivotal component of the museum’s experience being the home of some of Louis’s most prized possessions.
In my first week of training at the Archives, we had a two researchers come in that are working on a project reflecting Louis life in its entirety. These researchers coordinated with the research collections manager to identify the specific materials to be pulled for research. After the items are pulled from the collection, researchers are left to view the requested items under the supervision of a LAHM staff member. This allows researchers to indulge in our prestigious scope of collections intimately. LAHM is in the process of concluding a major digitization process for our scope of collections that will essentially make it easier for visitor to view our stacks without actually coming in. However, visitors will still have the option of viewing our collections up close and personal by arranging an appointment.
Following training in the archives, I began docent training at the House in preparation of leading a 40-minute guided tour to visitors seeking entrance to the heart or home of Louis and Lucille Armstrong. This training granted the knowledge required to successfully give a tour of the historic home (i.e. content, speech communication, sound clips, positioning, etc.) Concluding docent training, transitioning into actual tour leading was pretty nerve wrecking. Although I have experience of leading tours in a historic house museum, having to learn new content can be a bit overwhelming; as you could probably imagine. However, with a few practice attempts with Aiyonna and Hyland (Gift Shop Manager at LAHM), my confidence level began to germinate. Once I was comfortable enough to lead tours by myself, I was reminded by a sense of fulfillment, of the love I have for giving historic house museum tours. Having the opportunity to continue to do what I love while sustaining the legacy of a person full of love makes my job much more pleasurable; truly my happy place.