Hello and Goodbye

As the last remaining docent of the first three docents that were hired at Andalusia in the spring of 2018, I wanted to write about the experience I had with this job. I first visited Andalusia in 2016 as part of an introductory freshman class for history majors at Georgia College. I thought it was fascinating and seemed very southern gothic with the old furniture and peeling paint. About a year and a half passed, and I was considering putting in an application at Georgia’s Old Governor’s Mansion for the next available docent position. However, as is usual with my schoolwork, I procrastinated. Then, one day in my Museum Studies class, my professor announced that Andalusia had been gifted to GCSU and was looking for docents. Eager to gain museum experience, I applied and was the first docent to start working there in March 2018.

On my first full day, I was given a tour of the property. From the creaky, old house to the dark, supposedly snake-riddled barn, I quickly realized there was much more to Andalusia than I initially thought. My first project was assisting the curator in organizing the previously unmanaged artifact collection. I was instructed on how to handle objects, fill out a descriptive accession form and condition report. The curator, who had been very reassuring and helpful in her guidance up to this point, laid Flannery’s famous navy blue dress in front of me. I felt so underqualified to be starting out on such an important piece. Still, no matter the object, the process it the same. During my time there, I would eventually help accession a good percentage of the collection.

Over the next few months, I saw some of the most fascinating things at Andalusia. We found intriguing items such as Flannery’s clothing and doodles tucked away in storage. We also spent many moments staring at different farm implements and handmade or modified housewares to ponder what they could possibly be. While most of them were identified, a few remain a mystery. During these first three months, our primary goal was cleaning, accessioning, and numbering artifacts. While his process could be tedious and monotonous, especially when describing the tenth identical plate in a row, I learned a great deal about museum work before even learning to give tours.

The site officially opened in June that year. For this, I had to learn an entirely new set of skills. I had to memorize my own version of the tour given inside the main house and learn how to deliver it in an entertaining yet professional way. I also had to learn how to run the gift shop and work on my people skills. During the rest of my time there, I did a mix of giving tours, running the gift shop, and doing other museum work for the curator. While I prefer the behind-the-scenes work more, I had some great experiences on the customer service end as well. I enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and hearing their unique stories.

I am currently writing this the day before I graduate from Georgia College. Since I will no longer be a student, I will no longer have my student job at Andalusia. As I go on to my next step, I will remember all of the wonderful experiences I had. I am beyond grateful for the work experience I was able to obtain in those two short years. It will undoubtedly help me move forward with my career. But its more than that. What started off as a way to gain work experience and make a little extra money became such an immensely enjoyable adventure that I will remember for years to come. I met some wonderful new friends, but I got to know the house and the property as well. I learned which doors fully closed and which ones are more troublesome. I also learned how you have to keep Flannery’s crutches propped up at just the right angle to keep them from toppling over onto the velvet rope at the end of her bed. I enjoyed observing what kinds of birds and wildlife liked to roam the yard at different times of the year and which flowers bloomed the brightest. One of my favorite sights to witness, and something I will never forget, is the view of dark clouds rolling in over the front yard as raindrops slowly overtook the pond, changing the green mirror of the water’s surface to faint, gray ripples. The things I saw and learned and the people I met will stay with me as I move to the next stage of my life. Thank you, Georgia College and Andalusia, for giving me this opportunity and for teaching me so much!

Docent Mary Beth Jenkins, May 2020
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