MADISON, Ind. (April 2004) Historic Madison, Inc. welcomes
volunteers. In fact, the organization couldnt get along without
them. We couldnt have our museums open without them theyre
that critical, said HMI Executive Director John Staicer.
A nonprofit organization, HMI was founded in 1960 by John T. Windle
and a group of like-minded business people to support the preservation,
restoration, education and development of Madison, Ind.
courtesy of HMI
Madison Inc. docents pose during
a visit to Locust Grove in Louisville.
That mission has largely been made possible by hundreds of community
residents who have volunteered their time.
In 1963, when HMI opened its first house museum, the Judge Jeremiah
Sullivan House, the Docent Associates volunteer program was founded.
Since then, docents have contributed thousands of hours annually to
the successful operation of the organizations historic properties.
Its been a very important program to HMI for a long time,
said Director of Programs Kim Nyberg.
Over the years, HMI has acquired additional properties. The organization
now owns and maintains 16 properties. Four have been turned into museums
that are staffed entirely by volunteers. On any given day during the
summer and fall season, HMI docents can be found explaining the history
of Dr. William D. Hutchings Office and Hospital at 120 W. Third
St., fielding questions about the architecture of the Sullivan House
at 304 W. Second St., or leading a tour of the Schroeder Saddletree
Factory at 106 Milton St. Other HMI properties where docents work
include the Francis Costigan House at 408 W. Third St. and the Talbott-Hyatt
Pioneer Garden on the 300 block of West Second Street.
Docents also participate in HMIs Weavers and Garden Guilds,
give tours and perform demonstrations during Heritage Days and work
in the HMI office.
The Weavers Guild produces traditional woven articles and candles
that are displayed in the museums and made available for purchase.
The Garden Guild contributes many hours of work to improve the pioneer
garden, which contains many early roses and other early 19th century
plantings. Docents in the HMI office work on projects involving research,
data entry, filing, sorting and bulk mailings. Also completely volunteer
is HMIs board of directors.
The longevity of many HMI volunteers is a testament to their commitment
to the organization. Madison resident Sarah Vest has been a docent
since 1971. She has worked in most of the museums at one time or another
during her 33 years of service.
Its been good for me, said Vest, who enjoys sharing
her knowledge of local history with those who come through the museums.
They ask me questions, so I have to be on the ball, she
Barbara and Dick Conklin of Hanover, Ind., and Helen Rains of Madison
are also long-time docent associates.
Barbara Conklin has been volunteering for about 30 years; Dick Conklin
for about 14 years. The couple have worked at both Dr. Hutchings Office
and the Sullivan House.
Ive enjoyed just being in the houses, Dick Conklin
said. You kind of step back into another century. Its
fun to imagine what it was like when people were living there.
Barbara Conklin added, Its been great fun to get to know
other people who are docents. Both agreed that meeting visitors
also has been a highlight.
Helen Rains, a lifetime Madison resident and retired elementary school
teacher, has been a docent for more than 17 years. She has worked
mostly in the Sullivan and Costigan homes. I have enjoyed meeting
different people from different areas and seeing how much they enjoy
visiting Madison and seeing the homes, Rains said.
Louise Kant, a docent since 1998, said she enjoys not only meeting
visitors, but speaking with local residents who come through the Costigan
house where she usually works. They tell me lots of interesting
things, said Kant.
For the past two years, Karen Dickie of Madison has served as Docent
Associates president. Her duties have entailed organizing meetings
and activities, which includes during the summer a monthly luncheon
and program for the volunteers. She also works at Dr. Hutchings
Office. I try to, as much as I can, help (visitors) see what
Dr. Hutchings life was like, she said.
About 100 people are currently involved with HMIs Docent Associates
program. Many will swing into action on April 3-4 when the organization
opens its museums for the first weekend of the season. Theyre
sort of the welcome wagon for people coming into the community who
visit our properties, said Staicer.
Although response from the community has been outstanding, HMI is
always in need of additional volunteers. Anyone who enjoys history
and is interested in promoting Madison can volunteer to serve at one
of the museums or in other areas as needed.
A brochure explaining the Docent Associates program is available
at HMIs office located at 500 West St. Or call (812) 265-2967.