Recently people have been joining me on my Sunday Walks in Downtown Albany. Typically, I walk in Albany when I'm scheduled as a tour guide on the USS Slater. A slide show and a map are detailed at this blog entry. I plan on walking on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. You can contact me at:

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tour 10/13/2007, Port of Albany 75th Anniversary

I started early this Saturday and I still had problem with parking. October 13 was the 75th birthday of the Port of Albany. A big celebration was planned that included a free tours of the USS Slater. We estimate that between 2,000-3,000 visitors toured the ship. During a normal Saturday we might have a 100 visitors. While it was great open up the ship to a large number of visitors, the tour experience was dramatically different. Instead of the normal guided tour, the docents manned different areas of the ship (stations). Visitors followed a guided route that moved them them from one station to another. During the day I manned the 40mm gun mounts, the boat deck, the radio room, and the forward 3" gun mount.

On a normal tour a docent will personally guide visitors to different stations. At each stop the docent would discuss the station from three basic perspectives: a technical overview; insight into the personal who manned the station; and provide a historical context. When moving from station to station safety is paramount. This is especially true when some of the visitors have physical limitations, or with younger children. Sometimes the tour route will be modified based on safety concerns. Because the USS Slater gives guided tours, we also have the opportunity to display valuable artifacts from WWII in their original context. This Saturday, when faced with a large number of visitors, basic crowd control, safety and security become the overriding concern of the docents. Unfortunately, minimal attention was spent on other docent-educational related activities. At times I had to advise people to mind their children. On one occasion a parent argued with me and noted that another docent at a different station had turned a blind eye to similar behavior. I thanked the parent for pointing out the safety lapse at the other station and asked them to tell me were it was so I could report the situation. After that they decided to stop arguing and adjusted their children's behavior.

When a group of visitors would arrive at a station that I manned I would try to give them an abbreviated explanation of the station and answer their questions. Sometimes the volume would be too large and I would simply have to move the visitor to the next session. I was surprised with the number of ques tons concerning the hedgehog projector. When we give a normal tour, it's preceded by a "seven minute" video. Included in this video is a short segment on the hedgehog projector (perhaps 15 seconds). Clearly with regard to the hedgehog projector one short video clip is worth many minutes of discussion. More info on hedgehogs here.

The USS Slater is a non-profit organization. The primary source of funds to operate the museum is tour fees, gift shop sales and contributions. Other then a few modest grants the museum receives no government support. The interesting thing about this event is that even though the tour fees were zero, the level of donations and museum sales resulted in a financial success. The USS Slater's October Newsletter goes into more detail.

Sometimes those cell phone cameras are priceless! Early in the day, before the big crowd, I manned the 40mm gun mounts. A high-line chair is also on display in this area. A young mother with two very cute young ladies (approximately 4-5) was an early visitor. One little girl asked about the high-line chair, and as I started to describe it. Mom jumped in and noted that a great grand dad (or uncle) had the adventure of riding one in WWII. Immediately, the two young ladies sat on the chair and were all smiles (big smiles). I turned to mom and said, "where's a camera when you need one!". Suddenly, mom had an eureka moment! Out came the cell phone, and the priceless pictures were taken.