Friday, September 17, 2010

Visitor of the Week: Diane From New Zealand

Over the summer we profiled the vastly different people who stop by the Tenement Museum each week and collected their reactions to their tours. Now, Visitor of the Week continues into the fall and could even include you! If you're planning to visit and would like to be interviewed, send us an email.

Diane, our visitor this week, comes all the way from Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from Vancouver, Diane seemed thrilled to finally see the Big Apple and told me that while growing up, she had never gone further east than her home city. Later, she worked as a tour guide at the National Trust in Melbourne, Australia, educating visitors on the city's heritage homes, though her trip through the Tenement Museum was the only tour she booked during her inaugural visit to New York. So how did The Moores: An Irish Family in America stack up for this tour guide vet?

"Our tour guide was great," she said. Educator Justin Gilman adeptly led Diane through the restored home of the Irish-Catholic immigrants, as she imagined the poor conditions in which they lived.

"When I first walked in, I thought this place must look much nicer now than when they lived in it. It would have been very hot and dirty." When I asked her if she would ask the Moores anything about their lives, she quickly replied, "I wouldn't have a question. I would just want to help them!"

The Moores' immigrant experience was also affecting for Diane's husband, whose grandfather was born in Northern Ireland in 1875 and lead a hard life, illiterate and digging ditches for a living. The tour, he said, gave him a fuller appreciation for his grandfather's hardships. Though he had been to the city once before in June 1970, delivering Volkswagens in freighters at the South Street Seaport, he said he decided to make the trip short. To an eighteen year old tourist, 1970s New York was, he demurred, "not a nice place to be."

The New York of today, however, "blew me away," he said. "We have to come back again. There is too much to see."

Nevertheless, Diane and her husband are determined to see as much as they can. They'll visit the Museum of Modern Art, and Diane has already made sure to go theater-hopping. Now a vocal teacher back in Auckland, Diane received a recommendation to visit the Tenement Museum from one of her many students here pursuing the Broadway dream. And Diane, a woman who seems to have already lived several interesting lives traveling around the world, was grateful for her student's advice.

"[The Museum] gives you a sense of history, to better understand," she told me. "There are big cities in the world, but New York is unique because of the big influx of people that happened all at once."

-posted by Joe Klarl

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