How Do I Be Come A Living History Tour Guide?

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
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Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Check this blog post out. It's a Guide/Interpreter's overall experience of being one and stuff you need to know before becoming one.

It seems like it's really easy to get in.....if you know someone whose already employed as a tour guide.

https://www.thehistorylist.com/blog...e-and-what-to-know-before-you-apply-for-a-job
It is a whole lot more difficult, IMO, than this article makes it out to be. My mother was a tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg and Carter's Grove for over 20 years, beginning in 1966. She was paid by the hour and never mentioned any tips at all. Carter's Grove she was allowed to were a current fashionable trend in clothing, but in Historic Williamsburg she had to don whale-bone hips, a tight corset, floor length skirts with an upper bodice, era-contemporary shoes, and a small bonnet. These I think were provided. On her own time she went through hours of interpretive schooling and research of artifacts found within the buildings, as well as the general history of the buildings and intimate details of all and any guests and residents of the structures. There were fringe benefits for family, and many a time private tours and places beyond public admittance were allowed us. Every night for years she would sit in front of the TV and type reams upon reams of notes on all I mentioned above, and was required to take a test yearly on her knowledge and acumen. She progressed academically with seniority and pay over the years, and there was extreme in-house competition for placements and advancements. She retired close to seventy years of age, and the certain preference for beauty instead of accomplishment was always knocking at the door. The foundation can be looked up on line, surely, as well as Yorktown and Jamestown. Carter's Grove has changed ownership now I think, and rules may have changed in the last 30 years since she retired.
[Edit to add]: Thinking back on it, there was a common tip jar on-site in each building that would be divided among the guides at the end of the day.
Lubliner.
 
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A. Roy

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
It is a whole lot more difficult, IMO, than this article makes it out to be. My mother was a tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg and Carter's Grove for over 20 years, beginning in 1966.

Thanks for sharing this inside view -- fantastic to hear that you got to grow up around this!

Roy B.
 

Harms88

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 13, 2019
Location
North of the Wall & South of the Canucks
It is a whole lot more difficult, IMO, than this article makes it out to be. My mother was a tour guide at Colonial Williamsburg and Carter's Grove for over 20 years, beginning in 1966. She was paid by the hour and never mentioned any tips at all. Carter's Grove she was allowed to were a current fashionable trend in clothing, but in Historic Williamsburg she had to don whale-bone hips, a tight corset, floor length skirts with an upper bodice, era-contemporary shoes, and a small bonnet. These I think were provided. On her own time she went through hours of interpretive schooling and research of artifacts found within the buildings, as well as the general history of the buildings and intimate details of all and any guests and residents of the structures. There were fringe benefits for family, and many a time private tours and places beyond public admittance were allowed us. Every night for years she would sit in front of the TV and type reams upon reams of notes on all I mentioned above, and was required to take a test yearly on her knowledge and acumen. She progressed academically with seniority and pay over the years, and there was extreme in-house competition for placements and advancements. She retired close to seventy years of age, and the certain preference for beauty instead of accomplishment was always knocking at the door. The foundation can be looked up on line, surely, as well as Yorktown and Jamestown. Carter's Grove has changed ownership now I think, and rules may have changed in the last 30 years since she retired.
[Edit to add]: Thinking back on it, there was a common tip jar on-site in each building that would be divided among the guides at the end of the day.
Lubliner.

I was surprised by the qualifications one needed to be a park ranger myself. I finally decided to look it up, and there’s fitness requirements one has to do, such as run 2 miles or so under a certain time limit or something like that.
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
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Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I was surprised by the qualifications one needed to be a park ranger myself. I finally decided to look it up, and there’s fitness requirements one has to do, such as run 2 miles or so under a certain time limit or something like that.
I believe I might have seen somewhere an NPS Ranger needs a college degree. @Gettysburg Guide #154 might have a clue!
Lubliner.
 

Gettysburg Guide #154

Sergeant
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 30, 2019
I am not sure what you mean by a "certified living history guide". I am a Licensed Battlefield Guide for the Gettysburg National Military Park. My license is under the authority of the National Park Service. Guides at Gettysburg National Military Park have been required to be licensed after a testing process since 1915. Indeed it is a violation of federal law to provide a tour on the Gettysburg battlefield in exchange for remuneration without a license.

I obtained my license in 2018. For me, the process to obtain a license began with a 6 hour written test in December of 2017. This was 3 hours in the morning of fill in the blanks (no multiple choice or true and false), and 3 hours of essays after a lunch break. The topics tested covered not only the Battle of Gettysburg, but also the Civil War as a whole, Reconstruction, and the history of the park and the guides.

The majority of the candidates were eliminated after the written test. The next step was an interview by two panels of Licensed Guides and NPS Rangers. The interviews were both non the same day and just a few minutes apart.

Having passed that, I then then attended a weekend seminar of sorts where, in addition to receiving instruction on guiding, a few short presentations were required to be performed. One such presentation on the field was on a subject provided in advance. Another was a brief talk based on a topic pulled out of a hat (mine was Josephine Miller). The team of Licensed Guides and NPS Rangers finds found my performance at the seminar acceptable.

for the final phase of the process I worked with a mentor to develop my own 2 hour auto tour covering all three days of the battle, including the action on Culp's Hill. The tour was then given to a Licensed Guide and an NPS Ranger, who pretended to be visitors with a back story of sorts. The tour had to time out at 2 hours (plus or minus 5 minutes) and adapt to the back story of the pretend visitors so as to somewhat personalize the tour. For example, I was told that my "visitors" were from Mississippi, so I included a stop at the Mississippi State Monument, even though that was not part of my planned tour. Two attempts are permitted on this last phase of the process (I confess I needed the second try.).

When I undertook the process, there were more than 90 people who sat for the written test. In the end of the day, 9 of us obtained licenses. The testing for new licensed guides is only done when the NPS decides that more guides are needed. No reliable source has indicated to me when the next class of guides will be tested for Gettysburg.

It is my understanding that the only other battlefield administered by the NPS where it issues licenses for guides is Vicksburg. Other battlefields have guides, but they are not licensed by the NPS. Other than my experience at Gettysburg, I have no idea what the requirements are to become a guide elsewhere.
 

A. Roy

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
When I undertook the process, there were more than 90 people who sat for the written test. In the end of the day, 9 of us obtained licenses. The testing for new licensed guides is only done when the NPS decides that more guides are needed. No reliable source has indicated to me when the next class of guides will be tested for Gettysburg.

Wow, very interesting to hear about this (and intimidating)! We should all admire you even more than we already do!

Roy B.
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I am not sure what you mean by a "certified living history guide". I am a Licensed Battlefield Guide for the Gettysburg National Military Park. My license is under the authority of the National Park Service. Guides at Gettysburg National Military Park have been required to be licensed after a testing process since 1915. Indeed it is a violation of federal law to provide a tour on the Gettysburg battlefield in exchange for remuneration without a license.

I obtained my license in 2018. For me, the process to obtain a license began with a 6 hour written test in December of 2017. This was 3 hours in the morning of fill in the blanks (no multiple choice or true and false), and 3 hours of essays after a lunch break. The topics tested covered not only the Battle of Gettysburg, but also the Civil War as a whole, Reconstruction, and the history of the park and the guides.

The majority of the candidates were eliminated after the written test. The next step was an interview by two panels of Licensed Guides and NPS Rangers. The interviews were both non the same day and just a few minutes apart.

Having passed that, I then then attended a weekend seminar of sorts where, in addition to receiving instruction on guiding, a few short presentations were required to be performed. One such presentation on the field was on a subject provided in advance. Another was a brief talk based on a topic pulled out of a hat (mine was Josephine Miller). The team of Licensed Guides and NPS Rangers finds found my performance at the seminar acceptable.

for the final phase of the process I worked with a mentor to develop my own 2 hour auto tour covering all three days of the battle, including the action on Culp's Hill. The tour was then given to a Licensed Guide and an NPS Ranger, who pretended to be visitors with a back story of sorts. The tour had to time out at 2 hours (plus or minus 5 minutes) and adapt to the back story of the pretend visitors so as to somewhat personalize the tour. For example, I was told that my "visitors" were from Mississippi, so I included a stop at the Mississippi State Monument, even though that was not part of my planned tour. Two attempts are permitted on this last phase of the process (I confess I needed the second try.).

When I undertook the process, there were more than 90 people who sat for the written test. In the end of the day, 9 of us obtained licenses. The testing for new licensed guides is only done when the NPS decides that more guides are needed. No reliable source has indicated to me when the next class of guides will be tested for Gettysburg.

It is my understanding that the only other battlefield administered by the NPS where it issues licenses for guides is Vicksburg. Other battlefields have guides, but they are not licensed by the NPS. Other than my experience at Gettysburg, I have no idea what the requirements are to become a guide elsewhere.
That is a grueling procedure. You have good right to be proud of the accomplishment. How does this fit in with the museum; are they as stringent, or possibly even moreso I could assume due to relic rehabilitation etc.?
Lubliner.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
I believe I might have seen somewhere an NPS Ranger needs a college degree.

Given the ratio of applicants with college degrees vs available positions, even if it's not a requirement it's probably realistically necessary.

I was advised about a decade ago that, due to veteran's preference, the first qualification for most NPS ranger positions in the 21st century is military service. That's probably not universal, especially for some of the more specialized positions like biologists/naturalists, but likely still true for the more general positions.

Young people interested in working with public lands should probably get an internship with AmeriCorps.

In general, whether you're interested in NPS, state parks, or a non-profit I would suggest if you have no relevant experience and no fancy degree, volunteering is a really good idea. "I'm a lifelong Civil War buff" is nice to be able to put on your application at a Civil War site, but they will care more that people "in the biz" can vouch for you as a good worker. Volunteering also increases the chances you will become aware of opportunities to stand out.
 

Harms88

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 13, 2019
Location
North of the Wall & South of the Canucks
Last semester I did a paper on the qualifications needed to enter the archeological field.

To get jobs within the archeological community, you need at the very least a Bachelor's degree. Otherwise you get paid lower with a much longer time to advance in pay, your opportunities at good jobs is extremely constricted and when jobs come up (they are time sensitive in most cases) you're lower on consideration for them. That's only if you want to go a-digging. To teach, you need a PHD in any discipline that is associated with it, such as History.

I'm pretty sure that the same applies to anything within the historical field, whether it's Park Ranger, tour guide and so forth. Education very much still pays.
 

Beltplate53

Corporal
Joined
Oct 10, 2013
Location
Gettysburg, PA.
After retiring from the military and a stint teaching in a elementary school, I started volunteering at a historical site. I've had a life long interest in American history and immensely enjoy sharing it with others. After becoming a paid docent or tour guide, and doing that for six years, I decided to move to Gettysburg and live out my life here. I currently volunteer as a tour guide on a farm that is on the battlefield but not part of NPS property. Studying, a lot of reading, interacting, and the ability to tell a story are essential.
 
Joined
Jul 19, 2016
Location
Spotsylvania Virginia
Hello everyone, I was wondering how do I become a certified living history tour guide ? I am very interested in becoming one but don't know how . Can anyone help me ?
Hello everyone, I was wondering how do I become a certified living history tour guide ? I am very interested in becoming one but don't know how . Can anyone help me ?
Would you mind being more specific? For example do you mean as a private guide on NPS property? As a guide at some specific historical site not owned by the federal government? As a means of income? Hobby?
Just need more info.
 
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