Docents needed to share insight into local history
— Created May 25, 2022 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Memorial Day weekend not only marks the unofficial start of summer, it marks the official opening of the tourism season for the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve on central Whidbey Island. Starting Friday, the pioneer home will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday through Sunday as well as on Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Sharing the history of the Ebey House and the reserve is a small but mighty team of volunteer docents, said Jordan Belcher, education and outreach coordinator for the reserve.
“Established in 2011, the docent program at the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House has served thousands of visitors throughout the summer seasons,” she said. “As the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House opens for its 12th summer season Friday, we encourage those interested in their local National Historical Reserve to stop by.”
Now Belcher is hoping to grow her team of 17 docents even more.
“We are always looking to grow our docent team,” she said. “With six four-hour shifts every weekend staffed by two docents per shift, we would love a minimum of twelve docents every weekend.”
Last year saw more than 3,300 visitors pass through the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House. Those numbers are expected to increase this summer. Having people there who can share some of the history of the house and of Whidbey Island, can help improve visitors’ overall experience.
“I recently finished a cross-country trip with my daughter in which we visited many attractions fully staffed by volunteers,” Belcher shared. “Visitors will notice the same at the Ebey House because without our docents, we would not have the capacity to open the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House for three days a week all summer long. The donation of their time and knowledge is an invaluable resource as visitors have the opportunity to learn the history of the reserve through the experiences of another.”
Belcher encourages anyone interested in meeting new people and sharing information about the area to think about becoming a docent.
“Docents are not limited by personality or profession,” she said. “A good docent will provide courteous and honest responses while doing their best to share accurate information with the visitor.
“Participating in the docent program at the Jacob and Sarah Ebey House is a unique opportunity to become a partner with the reserve and our purpose to protect and preserve a rural community with its unbroken historical record,” Belcher continued.
While training has looked a little different the past two years because of the pandemic, docents continued their training after the season last year with both in-person and online presentations. New docents will be afforded plenty of opportunities to learn.
“With access to many of the recorded volunteer presentations from the past year, new volunteers can listen to those in addition to reading the provided resources and shadowing experienced docents,” said Belcher, adding they are also looking to improve the experience for visitors and docents alike.
“We are working on launching some survey materials this year to better track impacts on visitors, as well as visitor impact,” she said. “We are excited about the opportunity to share parts of our history through the docent program.”
The reserve is also working to make sure the complete history of the area is shared.
“Ebey’s Reserve is making efforts to update and replace antiquated and offensive verbiage and signage, and we are developing resources to aid in sharing a more complete and equitable story of Central Whidbey,” Belcher shared.
Whidbey residents will also have an opportunity to meet staff members and learn more about how the reserve currently operates at an open house in September at the Coupeville Rec Hall.
In the meantime, all are invited to visit the historical reserve and perhaps try a hand at helping history come to life as a volunteer docent.
“Those interested in learning local history, meeting others experienced in all things Central Whidbey, and sharing their reserve knowledge, can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 360-678-6084,” Belcher said.
Visit ebeysreserve.com for more information.