The volunteer docents at Casa San Ysidro: Gutiérrez Minge House donated 1,801 hours last year to teaching 5,449 visitors the significance of the history they can witness there (and sometimes touch). Last week, the Albuquerque Museum Foundation honored their Casa San Ysidro docents for longevity and dedication through recent rough times.
During lunch at La Fonda at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Docent Tours Coordinator Doug Simon singled out The Magic Bus team of volunteers. The Magic Bus is an outreach by the Albuquerque Museum to bring students to the Museum to view its exhibits, notably at Casa San Ysidro. Each 25-student class visit costs $175 from donations.
The Magic Bus program was suspended during the worst of COVID, during which volunteers offered three virtual tours to schools produced by volunteer Dean Sherer. Sherer and longtime docent Roger Estes were named Volunteers of the Month by the ONE Albuquerque Volunteer Program and awarded by Mayor Tim Keller on Jan. 5.
Magic Bus just started up again last September. So far, there are more than 40 Magic Bus tours booked for this spring semester.
"A deluge of requests for returning school tours put a strain on all Albuquerque Museum, Casa San Ysidro staff and docents," said Simon at the awards ceremony. Simon and his volunteers saw an upsurge in visits after the COVID crisis; all in all, the docents toured 631 school children through the rooms and other exhibits in 2022.
Heartfelt thank-you notes from school kids were scattered on the luncheon tables for docents to read.
In a later interview, Simon stressed the importance of what each docent brings to his or her interpretation of the historic home and its artifacts. "We have about 50 docents and many of them have been here for decades. When explaining the heritage of this place, each docent brings their life experience. For instance, Roger grew up on a farm and knows everything about farm life and work. The docents tell the stories and they bring themselves to it."
For that reason, Simon and his crew are looking for more docents from Hispanic and Indigenous backgrounds. "Dr. Minge was very involved in the Pueblos and there is a very strong Pueblos presence here, especially from Acoma. But we don't have any docents who are from that heritage. We have been asking for more docents by posting flyers at churches, schools, libraries, anywhere I can think of," he said.
Docent training starts up again in April. To sign up or for more information, call 505.504.6147.
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