Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
Janet Austin has been a volunteer since 1998 and has amassed over 2,200 volunteer hours. Many of those hours were accumulated as a docent leading a variety of tours, but she is also a living history character and has participated in numerous festivals and many other special events.
Tell us about your very first visit to the Homestead.
I think that I first heard about the Homestead Museum through Sunset Magazine. I brought some visitors and, after that, I often brought visitors, especially those visiting from abroad. It was a good place to visit when you only had half a day and didn’t have time for Universal Studios, etc. It was California history and, even if one wasn’t interested in history, La Casa Nueva was beautiful.
How did you begin volunteering here?
When I visited, I often came home with an application to become a docent but I always decided that I didn’t have the time right now. Finally, I stopped volunteering in the schools and had time for a new interest. I was also interested that the training included college level courses in California history. So, I signed up for docent training.
What part of the grounds and ambience of the museum especially appeal to you?
I think I enjoy the quiet. Although it probably wasn’t necessarily quiet when the family lived there, now it seems like a quiet retreat from the busyness of daily life.
What are your favorite programs at the Homestead, and why?
I enjoy giving tours to people who are interested—and most people who come are. I like adult and senior tours and student groups. I enjoy being a Living History character. But, I also enjoy the special tours, special events, and field trips that we go on.
How would you describe the Homestead to someone who has never visited the site?
I would say that the Homestead consists of 2 historic houses that you visit. The first is an adobe house that was built in the 1840s by William Workman who came from England and was part of the first group of people to travel overland to settle in this part of Southern California. I would explain that you learn all about the early history of this area of California. The second house you visit is a beautiful Spanish Colonial Revival home and you’ll love it!
What keeps you volunteering at the Homestead?
I enjoy it. I like the people there who have become friends. I like giving tours and I like learning more through the Continuing Education program. I like the fact that each tour is different and that tours have changed over the years so things don’t become routine.
Thanks for your insights, Janet! For more information about tours, programs, volunteering, and more, hop on over to our website.