The Columbus Area Visitors Center will offer another round of training for its architectural tour guides this January, the first training to be held in about two years.
Joyce Orwin, the visitors center tour guide coordinator, said the center has 30 to 50 active tour guides on their roster at any given time, and she hopes to have about 20 people enrolled in this winter’s session.
The classes will take place Tuesday evenings beginning Jan. 15. Following the completion of the architectural tour course, students may enroll in the four-week training course for Miller House tours if they wish, though these tours are not required of all guides.
“We’ve refined the training, and there are some fun surprises, too,” Orwin said.
The guides are required to lead about 12 tours a year, though Orwin said that most guides lead more than that.
“The more tours they do, the better they are,” she said.
There are no prerequisites for tour guides, although applicants will undergo a brief interview session before being admitted to training. Orwin said that would-be guides should be friendly and people-oriented.
“People will remember friendly guides as much as they will the tour,” she said.
Columbus’ Dody Harvey has been leading the tours for more than 35 years. When she started, she said, each tour guide was charged with learning two things about each building on the tour, though Harvey said her knowledge since has grown exponentially.
“You learn so much from the people on these tours,” Harvey said. “And you get to share with people who have a common interest.”
Harvey suggests that would-be tour guides start a clip file about all things Columbus in order to better lead their tours.
“People on these tours, especially out-of-towners, want to know more about the community as a whole,” she said.
Janet Forbes underwent training in 2000, shortly after retiring from a career in commercial interior design. She said the tours have given her a renewed appreciation for the unique architectural history Columbus has to offer.
“I point out to my guests that, unlike the larger buildings in major cities, where you may not even see to the top of the building, you can appreciate the details of our buildings because we live with our buildings every day,” Forbes said.
Even those who work full time can find the time to lead the tours, said Arthur Smith, marketing and media director for the Columbus Area Arts Council. Smith underwent training when he returned from living out of state a few years ago. He said he was looking for a way to reconnect with the community, and the tours blended well with his background in art and design.
Smith said he signs up to lead weekend tours and usually fulfills his monthly obligation in one day.
Columbus’ city architecture tours last about two hours and touch on about 40 buildings, monuments and public art pieces. Each tour includes two interior building tours as well, which may include First Christian Church, North Christian Church, St. Peter’s Lutheran, Columbus Regional Hospital or the Columbus Learning Center.