When Sherri Salmans retired from teaching after 32 years in Utah and California, she already knew she was going to fill her time by volunteering at a variety of places. Like many of our volunteers, Sherri was not a stranger to volunteerism, previously volunteering her time at the Beehive Museum in Salt Lake City, UT, and the Hollywood Heritage Museum in Los Angeles. However, Sherri’s biggest passion is genealogy. In addition to researching her own family history, Sherri volunteers her time at a nearby Latter-day Saints’ Family History Center. On numerous occasions, she has assisted fellow volunteer staff at the Homestead with their search efforts. This past winter, Sherri co-taught a genealogy workshop with the museum’s Operations Assistant, Steve Dugan, who recently asked Sherri to reflect on her time at the museum, her interactions with the public, and more.
What do you remember about your first visit to the Homestead?
The Workman House wasn’t open at all. The cowhide was on the south porch and we were told there wasn’t much to see inside; just damaged wallpaper. As I continued to visit the museum more rooms continued to be added as they were renovated. As a result, the tour of the house improved as well. With this most recent renovation, the transformation is incredible and I’m excited and proud to share our recent discoveries with our visitors.
What do you like about volunteering at the museum?
I like teaching the public [on public tours] and the children on our Journey Through Time tours. On both tours, I get to share what life was like here before we arrived. I also like being around like-minded people who are enthusiastic about history.
Thinking back to your days as a teacher, what are the similarities and differences between giving a tour and teaching a class?
In a classroom, you try to give your students as much hands-on experience as possible. The Journey Through Time tours do this very well. The difference on [a public or group] tour is that as I guide our visitors through the site I don’t have to worry about testing them or trying to cover everything in a short amount of time. That is pure teaching!
What is the most memorable question you’ve been asked by a visitor?
There really hasn’t been one on tour, but since I am in the introductory video, I often get asked, “Is that you in the video?” [If you view the video online, you’ll find out that yes, indeed, it’s Sherri!]
You and I recently taught a genealogy workshop at the Homestead that will take place again next year. Explain why you are you so passionate about genealogy.
I have loved history all of my life. People make history. My ancestors made my family’s history. I love walking where they walked and touching things they touched. I am definitely a mixture of both sides of my family. I have discovered through my research that many of my female ancestors were teachers and many of them could also read or write, even during a time when educating young women was not as universal as it is today. I am grateful to them and for the legacy they gave to me.