As part of Portland’s vibrant “history community,” it was a delight to read about the success of all the various tours that are now offered to our visitors and residents (“Walking tours thrive in walkable Portland,” July 28).

However, I do wish to clarify what appeared to be a misconception by the reporter. The Portland History Docent Program does not certify guides for for-profit businesses.

The docent program was created by, and is still run by, eight nonprofit historic sites, including Greater Portland Landmarks and Maine Historical Society. Our 10-week program was conceived 25 years ago to train volunteer docents who are willing to give their time to volunteer at our nonprofit organizations.

It is important to understand that, in running the docent program, there is a monetary cost to the nonprofits. Although we are able to do it on a shoestring, we are running the program specifically to benefit our nonprofits, not to educate or certify employees who give tours at the for-profit companies.

We are excited that so many people are now interested in taking historic tours. We believe that interest in history is good for everybody – a rising tide raises all boats!

We are, however, struggling with the fact that some of these companies are now sending all of their employees to our program. This year our program was oversubscribed and I had to turn people away – people who were seriously interested in volunteering for our nonprofit museums.


Thus, it was a disappointment when several of our students, all employees of for-profit tour companies, took advantage of our nationally known program but then did not volunteer for one of our nonprofits.

We hope to find a way to accommodate everyone. But in the meantime I felt it was important to correct the misconception that our nonprofit museums are certifying the guides at local businesses.

Marjorie J. Getz

program director (a volunteer position), Portland History Docents


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