This week the spotlight – or perhaps we should say, the lantern light – shines on Marelda Hart, Supervisor of Interpreters at Mystic Seaport. Marelda’s main focus right now is directing the Museum’s Lantern Light Tours for the fifth consecutive year. The tours are just one of many activities and events involving roleplayers and interpreters, and supervising such a diverse portfolio of people and events is a huge responsibility. It is Marelda’s combination of experience, optimism and open-door management style that makes it all work, with the Museum visitor ultimately the beneficiary.
1. How long have you worked at Mystic Seaport?
MH: Since 1984, although it wasn’t full-time until 1998. When I began working at Mystic Seaport, it was a far cry from the pediatric nurse practitioner I had been in California, but I was intrigued with all the new opportunities here at the Museum. After my first year in Interpretation, I developed my role-playing character of Dr. Marelda Louise Wiley, using my grandmother’s name. The research in 19th-century medicine was made possible by my knowledge of 20th-century medicine. The next year I joined Squad, which opened still more doors for me, like sailing several square-rig vessels and owning a passenger schooner. Since my very first day on the job, it has been a fun, exciting, educational journey for me.
2. What’s the best part of your job?
MH: I’m going to copycat others who have said their co-workers are the best part of their job. It’s true; there’s an indefinable something. Both paid and volunteer staff seem to have a mutual fondness, passion and sense of caring for our Museum. It’s evident as well in the numerous interactions I have with different departments and department heads. I’ve concluded it’s a special kind of person who chooses to work at Mystic Seaport.
3. What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
MH: People can be both a delight and a challenge – often at the same time! I really do enjoy talking with all our talented, dedicated staff. There are three important steps I go through regularly when confronting different challenges: listen, formulate a solution and find a way to implement the solution. I keep an open mind, an open ear and an open office door. As a result, any discussion regarding discontent, concerns or problems usually ends on a positive note. Also, insufficient time to do everything is always a challenge.
4. What’s the funniest or most notable on-job experience you’ve had?
MH: I never could have imagined in California, when I got my pilot’s license and became certified as a PNP, that I would eventually work in a maritime museum! It’s notable for me that I have the good fortune to work in an environment that fulfills my love of history, drama and the sea. Speaking of drama, with Lantern Light Tours on the horizon, I do recall something that happened in one of our previous years. Each year a ginger cookie is offered to the public as part of the story. This one year, unfortunately, an elderly woman who was being escorted by her son, tripped and fell and was taken by ambulance to the hospital to be checked out for any serious injury. Her son managed to rejoin the group and asked worriedly, “Did I miss the cookies?” It’s the little things that mean a lot, I guess!
5. What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?
MH: My dog, Barnacle, insists on going for walks, but when he’s not badgering me to take him, I enjoy reading, photography, writing poetry and quilting. I have five children – three daughters and two sons – and three granddaughters, two of whom are junior firefighters with their dad in the Dunn’s Corners Fire Department. There are just not enough hours in a day to do all the things I love to do!
Marelda was interviewed by volunteer, Trudi Busey. Photo by Dennis Murphy.