Thinking About Roving
By: Marta Olmos
One of the big challenges for me this summer has been getting used to the idea of roving. I had volunteered in interpretation before this internship, but always at set locations, exhibits, and tables. At Minute Man, we do a lot of roving, which means walking around the park and trying to engage visitors in informal conversations about the story, as well as answering questions and providing directions. This has been challenging for me in a few ways, but it has also led to some of my most rewarding experiences this summer.
One of the biggest challenges of roving is that I do not look like a ranger. Visitors expect to interact with someone in the traditional ranger uniform with the badge and the straw hat. Most visitors have never heard of ACE or CRDIP, and that sets me up at a disadvantage when trying to create informal interactions. I have to work harder to get their attention and help them understand that I work at the park and I can answer their questions. This is usually easier at the North Bridge or when standing outside one of the busy locations like Hartwell Tavern, since people there are usually looking for someone to answer questions or explain the history. But when doing trail roves, I find that people often think I’m just another visitor! This has forced me to work on my public-facing skills and to approach visitors proactively instead of simply waiting for them to come up to me.
The other difficulty has been the heat! This challenge is complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Walking the trail in 90 degree heat would be difficult in the best circumstances, but wearing a mask can quickly make it stifling. There has been a real learning curve throughout the staff on how to deal with these challenges. Luckily, Minute Man is dedicated to the health and safety of its staff, and we receive constant support from our supervisors.
Despite these challenges, I am learning to love roving. My favorite part of my job is when visitors, especially families, come up and simply ask me to “tell them the story.” This is basically a blank check to say anything, and it has helped me really develop my interpretive skills to create a summary of the park story that is engaging and exciting for all audiences. I love being part of that moment when a visitor puts together the pieces and begins to really see and appreciate the historical landscape, and most of those experiences this summer have happened while roving!