History entices Castle docent

Marietta can often be a big attraction for history buffs, and for 26-year-old Jessica Wielitzka, that was exactly what brought her to the area.

A child of the Navy, Wielitzka grew up moving around, but decided to call Marietta home and became a docent for The Castle, where she has been volunteering for the past two years.

The Castle Education Director Misty Spillman said it is volunteers like Wielitzka that keep the museum alive and well.

“Volunteers mainly conduct all of our tours during the week and on the weekends,” Spillman said. “So we really rely on them a lot and absolutely need them to run the museum.”

About 30 people, with 15 currently considered “active” docents, derived from the Latin word “docere which means “to teach,” volunteer at The Castle, and museum officials are looking for more like Wielitzka who can lend a hand.

Spillman said docent training requires volunteers to study a binder of The Castle’s history and then spend a few weeks shadowing a docent before they are allowed to give tours of their own, where they are allowed to put their own “spin” on them based on their own interests and expertise.

Question: What got you involved as a volunteer at The Castle?

Answer: When I was going to school in Athens at Ohio University, I took a tour of The Castle while I was spending the day with my mom and sister. She told me I’d love it, because I love history. After college was over I had it in the back of my head, so I went over there and to see if they needed help. I ended up volunteering for four months, then they hired me as administrator and I worked at that for a few years. After I quit there I decided to keep volunteering, and I’ve been at it for two years.

Q: What all do you do?

A: I spend about three hours a week there, and then any additional time for events, but I mostly give both children and adult tours. I will also work on the Halloween events or overnight events because I like working with kids. I’ve also done a lot with the teas we host and the concerts. Anything they need, I’m there. I am also willing to dress up in costume!

Q: What’s your favorite part about volunteering?

A: I think the best part is all of the people I get to meet that are interested in history. Not a lot of people have as much of an interest as I do, but when they come to The Castle they don’t mind listening to me talk about Victorian manners, because they’re actually curious and want to learn.

Q: What all does it take to be a docent?

A: I did a lot of training. The different employees and curators taught me how to do specific tasks like updating the collection and what you have to do to protect furniture and clothing. When I was on staff, I also learned the ins and outs of running a nonprofit. Doing all that taught me the most.

Q: Do you volunteer anywhere else in the community?

A: I started cleaning gravestones with Marietta Cemeteries Coming Alive. I’m not officially with them, but I have done it a few times. I also recently joined the historical society in Marietta, so I’m hoping to get started doing whatever I can with them.

Q: What makes it so important for places like The Castle to have volunteers like you?

A: It’s incredibly important to have volunteers. Volunteers make The Castle go. I’ve been on both sides because I’ve been on staff and a volunteer, and they need as much help as they can get. (The staff) is great, and they all have multiple talents they can bring to The Castle, but volunteers rescue them from overworking themselves.

Jackie Runion conducted this interview.