Working at a museum involves a lot of paperwork. At Stratford Hall, the Interpretation & Education Department is in charge of visitor services. This means I receive all information about daily operation (visitor statistics, number of tours, group sizes, weather, staffing…). This information is very important administratively, but in general not very interesting to other people.
Every now and again some of this paperwork paints a very vivid picture about what a day was like. Each day the in-charge position at the Great House fills out a “Daily Interpreter Tour Schedule & Instructions” with the daily happenings. The sheet from August 23rd, 2011, started off pretty normal. The weather was “pleasant” and in the 80s. The guides were using the lower west door and touring the kitchen. The first tour of the day was at 11:00am, but there were 70 students and 8 parents doing the school programs. Additionally, I was giving a tour to 24 new Westmoreland County teachers.
Then came 1:50pm. For those of you who do not remember, a little over a year ago Virginia experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. Edna Mae, who was in-charge that day, went on to describe what they witnessed: “ceilings in the GH dancing, stalls in the bathroom moving, guests frightened, and portraits shifted in the G. Hall.” I was in the minority at Stratford because I did not feel the earthquake (I was outside at the time). It was after a text message from my sister in New York City asking if I was okay that I realized something major had happened.
We were very lucky that there were no injuries and that our historic buildings did not sustain any damage. Paperwork may not be the glamorous side of museum work, but having a record of everything that happens every day provides a unique history of life at Stratford.
-Abigail Newkirk, Director of Interpretation & Education