Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bonnie Olson's Docent Life @ Museum of Flight

This article first appeared in the March-April 2013 Aloft Magazine  of the Seattle Museum of Flight.
Bonnie Olson’s careers have come full circle. In 1984 she left one, teaching, and began a second, Human Resources in the aerospace industry. Following her 2008 retirement she returned to teaching, after a fashion, when she joined the MOF volunteer team “educating” visitors about the MOF collections.  
Now, as a Saturday AM docent, she is enjoying her new teaching time “…with the best group of docents at the Museum.”
“When I was new to the Saturday group everyone went out of their way to provide me with tips and make me feel welcome. Now we arrive at 9:00 and laugh and talk until 9:30 when they try to calm us down and put us to work,” she reports with a laugh.
Bonnie has been near the aerospace industry for nearly 30 years. Her HR work, in California and Washington, was with industry subcontractors for commercial and space programs. Along the way she married Nick Olson, a 35 year veteran of Douglas & McDonnell Douglas.
Upon retirement she began her volunteer work at the MOF. While waiting for a docent class she posed, in costume, as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) in the Personal Courage Wing. To prepare for the “role” she immersed herself in “WASP” research so she could properly explain the WASP role in World War II aviation.
Completing docent training she joined the Saturday AM team. Her favorite assignment is the main gallery. It offers a rich variety of aircraft with displays that appeal to a full range of guest interests from the Wright Flyer to the MD71 Blackbird.
In addition to her Saturday work she has assisted with galas and lent a hand in the HR and Membership departments. She is a member of the Docent Leadership Council and is currently working with docent Fred Quarnstrom developing a program for the visually impaired.
Like most docents she enjoys interacting with MOF guests and is often amazed at all she can learn from the many well informed visitors. She recalls one 12 year old who was an “expert” on the B-29 and quite upset that the MOF plane was “cocooned” and unavailable for tour. When told there was simply no indoor space for display he offered his own, simple solution: Hang it in the Main Gallery.
Bonnie has contributed 1100 volunteer hours to the MOF to date and has no interest in slowing down.
“I love what I do here,” she says with enthusiasm.