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SJ Museum docent ranks share passion for history
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209 staff reporter

They share a passion for the rich history of San Joaquin County.

According to Robin Wood, who is the Education and Visitor Services Manager of the SJC Historical Society and Museum located inside Micke Grove Regional Park in Lodi, docents are those who volunteer their time along the eight exhibit buildings and four historical buildings on the 18-acre grounds, including the 1848 Weber house and the 1866 Calaveras School.

“They share a love of history, children and education,” she said.

There are 70 such docents, including retired principal Russ Livingston.

“Docents – an extraordinary bunch of wildly diverse folks who channel historical characters,” he said, thumbing through a definition.

His interest began a few years ago while attending the award-winning Valley Days historical program with his grandson, who was part of a class from the Linden Unified School District.

“I was drafted by the blacksmith to help students brand their school logo onto a wood project,” Livingston recalled.

He also helped out with rope making.

Livingston thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “It was a wonderful day, coordinated and taught by docents and docent-trained parents, all in 1884 dress,” he said.

Docents, Livingston said, are the lifeblood of the museum.  They do everything – doing tours for children and the elderly, and taking part in Valley Days, Farm to Fork, and Hands on Tour.

Docents also coordinate and organize special events such as Festival of Trees, the Classic Car Show, and Sparks in the Park, to name a few.

All told, they’re highly educated, trained, professional employees of the museum.

Livingston added: “(Docents) provide administration, historical archives and information, maintain the unique collection, and develop educational programs and organization.”

The SJC Historical Society and Museum has a local flavor in David Stuart, who grew up in Ripon.

He’s the executive director and CEO, having once been a seasonal worker at Caswell Memorial State Park while attending Modesto Junior College.

His interest in California history and prehistory continued to grow during his days at Fresno State followed by his graduate studies at the University of Colorado, where he majored in Anthropology.

Stuart would become the first Assistant State Archeologist of Colorado before returning to California in 1983,

He managed three history museums and several natural history programs for the City of Ventura.

In 1988, he became Director of the Sacramento Science Center.

Stuart helped create the Discovery Museum in the 1990s, merging the science museum with the history museum in Old Sacramento.

He later worked for the California community colleges, serving first as the chief operations officer of the Faculty Association followed by VP of Operations for the non-profit Foundation for California Community Colleges.

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail