Thursday, 2 July 2015

Difficult History

A few meetings back we had the topic of teaching difficult history to docents.
Today, a very interesting article came out about delivering . Here's the link and a a couple of quotes that were particularly helpful.

On the very small scale of leading historic house tours, what helped me combat ahistorical statements was to establish trust and rapport with guests from the get-go. For me, gentleness was key: It created an environment in which people were willing to hear new views and felt less nervous asking questions. For example, guests — especially older folks — used to ask me all the time whether the people who owned the house were "good slaveowners." I would say, "Well, that's an interesting question," and suggest a couple of reasons why even the phrase good slaveowner itself is troubling. They'd nod and look reflective. We were already friends, so they didn't feel attacked by the correction. Then again, maybe they only believed me because they trusted a fellow white person as an unbiased source.
An older colleague once reminded me to "talk to people, not at them." It's a small piece of advice. But day by day as I was face to face with strangers, challenging their deeply held beliefs on race, it helped.
 Article by Margaret Biser. She gave educational tours and presentations at a historic site for more than six years. Read more stories of her experiences on Twitter @AfAmHistFail.