Finding My Passion: Interpretation

view of Riordan Mansion from the back from the visitors center

view of Riordan Mansion from the back from the visitors center


Yesterday I had the opportunity to guide tours of Riordan Mansion for the first time in a few years.  I was on and it felt amazing.  Have you ever had a job (unpaid or paid) that you are really good at and really love?  When you are doing that job, you feel like your best self, like you are fulfilling your potential.  Well, that is how I feel when I guide a tour at Riordan Mansion.


Riordan Mansion

The front archway at Riordan Mansion

The tours are an hour long and you as the tour guide are leading up to 15 people through every room of east side of the mansion.  Along the way you are delivering the facts and weaving together an overall theme.  While telling your story you also have to keep a close eye on the group, looking for signs of boredom, fatigue, or rule breaking.  As the tour guide it is your sole responsibility to protect the resource and interpret it for the general public.  I love it.  


Kathy Farretta and Sharon

An old picture from my early days of guiding tours with then Park Ranger, Kathy Farretta (now Kathy is a volunteer at Riordan since they lost their state park funding)

When I ended my first tour yesterday, 7 out of 9 guests came up to me afterwards to tell me that it was a fabulous tour and they loved it.  I measure my success in a few ways, 1) the number of questions I get on a tour, 2) the feedback I receive at the end of the tour, 3) how long people linger after the tour, 4) donations that I receive after the tour (we do not accept tips, but I will take a “tip” and put it in the donation box).  


path leading to the back of Riordan Mansion

path leading to the back of Riordan Mansion

I love finding ways to make my tour engaging, help my guests follow the rules (no touching, stay on the red carpet, and no photos during the tour), and construct a narrative that will motivate the guests to act.  At Riordan Mansion we do not just parrot a history book about the artifacts and the family.  It is our goal as tour guides to actually transform our guests thinking, to get them thinking about how and why the town was founded, about how they participate in preserving the past, and help them see that they can be like the Riordans, building their own community back home.  If it was just about rattling off dates and places I would be terrible at this job.


inside Riordan Mansion Visitor Center

inside Riordan Mansion Visitor Center

So, if you come through Flagstaff, you should obviously take a tour of Riordan Mansion.  Right now they are open 5 days a week, Thursday through Monday, 10:30 am – 5:00 pm with tours on the hour.  You can reserve a tour by calling (928) 779-4395.  If you want to have me as your tour guide, just comment on this post or send an email and we can work out a time.

If you’re not in Flagstaff, I encourage you to learn about your local historic sites and the opportunities to visit or to volunteer.


6 responses to “Finding My Passion: Interpretation

  1. So how did you get the birds to cooperate in the first photo? Really adds intrigue. I have never taken a tour although I have visited and would love to do that.

  2. I want to take a tour! Its fun reading your blog, so full of excitement.

  3. Melinda Bloom

    Very good article. It shows your passion. I love giving tours at the Ronald McDonald House also. When I was giving a tour for a group of 9 yr old boys and their parents, before entering the family wing, I asked all the boys to put their hands on their heads and keep them there until I said they could take them down. They (and their parents) looked at my funny, but complied. Then I opened the door into the Family Wing and the boys saw the train set that they couldn’t touch because their hands were on their heads! We adults got a good laugh out of that.

    Maybe you should be a park ranger and do interpretive programs. Also, maybe Road Scholar should put a stop at Riordan on their agendas??

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