Editor’s note: This article was reprinted with permission from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
When asked to explain how volunteers can enhance the visiting experience of the museum guests, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) Volunteer Francesca Boston quickly exclaimed, “Ask us questions!”
“We know so many things about the museum from architectural and exhibit design to ‘hidden’ histories. We want to tell the guests about them,” she stated emphatically.
A senior at A-C Central High School, Boston lives on a small farm outside of Jacksonville, Illinois, with her parents and younger brother. The Bostons understand the meaning of hard work as they balance the management of their farmland and the care of their four dogs, dozens of goats and sheep and lots of chickens, ducks, and geese. Furthermore, Boston loves working with children and holds various part-time jobs as a nanny and childcare worker.
Encouraged to join the volunteer team in 2019 by her English teacher, Marcy Newbold, Boston swiftly transitioned into her volunteer position and feels at home at the museum.
“Mrs. Newbold is also a volunteer at the ALPLM, and I had recently started a history club at my school, so she thought it would be a perfect fit. It has been!” Boston said. “I came for the history and story of Abraham Lincoln but have stayed for the people.”
Boston shared that as a child of an English immigrant she has lived in several countries during her childhood and considers her interactions at the museum with people from around the world to be a highlight of her volunteering.
“I can relate with our foreign visitors and strive to understand their knowledge of American history and provide answers to their inquiries,” she commented. “I have had questions about things I had never considered before and have learned and been shaped by pondering these new perspectives. I love being able to answer the guests’ questions and highlight a photo or exhibition area that relates to what they are asking.”
Another incentive of volunteering has been the strong bonds she has formed with her fellow weekend volunteers and the knowledge she has gleaned from them. “I like the variety of ages and experiences within the ALPLM volunteer team,” she stated. “I have worked with other students my age to people who have been volunteering since the museum opened. I take the time to listen to what they share with the museum guests, which has helped me in refining the historic narrative I express to our visitors.”
Additionally, Boston likes having the opportunity to share the personal stories of the men and women impacted by the horrors of the Civil War. “My favorite history at the ALPLM is the stories of the everyday people who fought in the war,” she said. “The War Gallery’s photo exhibition does an outstanding job of showing a little glimpse into these individuals’ lives that otherwise would never be known.”
A natural leader, Boston presides over several extracurricular organizations, including FFA and the Beta Club. She also volunteers regularly for events at her church and hopes to work with Theater in the Park at Lincoln’s New Salem when their theatrical programs resume.
It is not surprising that Boston’s career plans center on broadening her historic knowledge. Upon graduation from high school, Francesca intends to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history and become a park ranger interpreting at historic locations around the country. Her long-term intention is to obtain a doctoral degree in history and become a college professor.
Although COVID-19 has altered the format of her final year of high school, she has adapted to the hybrid of in-school and remote educational learning. In fact, she has made the most of these unique circumstances by reading more and exploring her artistic and creative passions. “In my free time, I like to read and create things. I have recently tried my hand at (very limited) woodworking and embroidering, and I found I really enjoyed it,” she explained.
Boston concluded by taking the liberty to speak on behalf of our ALPLM volunteers: “We love working at the museum and are eager to resume our volunteer roles and greet visitors again. But until then, please remember to wear a mask and stay safe!”