Volunteers play a key role in making the History Center one of the finest cultural organizations in the U.S. By donating time and talents, volunteers assist with many facets of the organization. Over the next few months, the History Center is highlighting a few of the diverse volunteers that help our museums succeed.
We spent some time talking to Heinz History Center volunteer Judy Sutton. Judy volunteers her time as a docent, a History Center Affiliates Program volunteer, and as an Ambassador. Ambassadors deliver lectures and programs offsite on various topics related to Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania history. (Learn more about the History Center’s Ambassador Outreach Programs.)
Read the Q&A below to learn about her experiences.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from here in Pittsburgh.
How did you become interested in the History Center?
After I retired as a children’s librarian in 2011, I was looking for a volunteer experience that would enable me to interact with people of all ages. I was a history major in college, and I love talking with groups, so the Heinz History Center seemed like a perfect fit.
What was your first experience here?
I started shadowing docents on their tours before attending docent school. I gave my first tour when, planning to shadow a more experienced docent, I was drafted into giving the tour when the museum was short a docent. “Baptism by fire,” one might say.
What is your favorite aspect of volunteering at the History Center?
I enjoy the fact that I can interact with people of all ages and every tour is different! I also present two of the History Center’s Outreach Lecture Programs, so I am out and about all over Western Pennsylvania.
Tell us a little bit about the Ambassador program.
As a Volunteer Ambassador, I have developed and delivered two different history presentations, “The Legacy of Jazz in Western Pennsylvania” and “First Ladies of Western Pennsylvania.” I’m currently working on another talk on the Ratification of the 19th Amendment.
In developing these talks, I’ve had the opportunity to work with History Center curators and experts to create engaging programs. As an Ambassador, I’ve traveled to libraries, retirement communities, churches, and historical societies both close to home and as far afield as Confluence, Pa. It’s been a great opportunity to explore the region and share the exciting things that are happening at the History Center with a wider audience.
Do any of your other interests or hobbies tie in with what you do as a volunteer?
I enjoy reading, music, visiting museums and historical sites, and traveling. I also volunteer my time at the Mt. Lebanon Historical Society and do tours with that organization as well.
What do you most value about your volunteer experience?
It’s good for the brain!
I love that as docents we are constantly learning about new exhibits and eras of history. I have gained new perspectives that have caused me to rethink how I have viewed past historical events, and I have come to understand how historical events still impact us today.
I enjoy working with other docents to continually evaluate how we create tours and learning experiences that are engaging for all our learners – from preschoolers to individuals with special needs, for school students and adults too.
Being a docent is all about being able to adapt to unexpected situations and sharing Western Pennsylvania’s interesting history with others. I love what I do!
The 2019 Docent School class will begin in late August. If you’re interested in learning more about the Heinz History Center Docent program, please contact Laura Myers 412-454-6428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about other volunteer opportunities with the History Center, Fort Pitt Museum, or Meadowcroft, check out our Volunteer page or contact Ellen DeNinno at 412-454-6412 or email@example.com.
Laura Myers is the audience engagement coordinator with the Learning team at the History Center.