The Breakers Newport RI
The Breakers (Photo via The Preservation Society of Newport County)

The big news is the re-opening of The Breakers and The Elms today (Thursday, June 4) by the Preservation Society of Newport County (PSNC), beginning at 9 am at The Elms (Open 9-5 daily) and at 10 am at The Breakers (Open 10-6 daily). The Servant Life Tour at The Elms will be available from 9 am – 5 pm daily. 

Sadly, this past week the PSNC announced the layoff of 231 of their part- and full-time employees, representing 69% of the total staff. The organization is hopeful that attendance and revenues will grow, and some staff will be re-hired as demand increases. 

At the two Preservation Society mansions there will be many changes on how tickets are purchased (all online), capacity in the houses, the wearing of masks, and the new social distancing guidelines. Audio players will no longer be provided. Guests will be required to download the house tours to their mobile devices, and use their own ear buds or headphones. Single use printed scripts will also be available.   

Restaurants, bars, retails stores, and houses of worship have also re-opened in Newport. Last weekend’s Celebration of Mass at St. Mary’s went smoothly for three services, including a Saturday evening service and two Sunday masses. Social distancing, required masks, limited capacity, and new strategies for the offering and Communion allowed parishioners to fellowship once again. 

Plans are still in process to re-open other house museums and historic sites as soon as it is feasible. Future re-opening plans at the other PSNC houses have not been announced yet. We will continue to follow up with our other local historical and cultural organizations and attractions. 

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For the most current information, check directly with individual museums and other historic sites for opening days, times, and Covid-19 rules. 

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Watch this column and daily posts in www.whatsupnewp.com for additional openings of restaurants, cafes, hotels, museums, mansions, and more in the coming days and weeks. Indoor dining will return soon as well.

A QUICK NOTE OF ENCOURAGEMENT (Reprinted from Last Week’s Column):

There are better times ahead. Keep aware of peoples’ desire for a future visit to Newport. Now is the time to plant the seed and offer suggestions of when, where, and how to best enjoy our city.

We know they are coming because Newport is a must-see destination. Eventually, after all their planning, they will arrive here. And thankfully, with proper planning on our part, we will be ready to welcome them and deliver to each one an unforgettable experience.

In the meantime, we have work to do here right now. Encourage your friends and guests and inquirers to visit Newport, patronize the open restaurants and cafes, drive and walk and experience the 4+ centuries of architectural beauty, and marvel at the miles of natural landscapes and water vistas. 

Much of what we have to offer visitors is already on display. We are also one day ever closer to a full re-opening of our city’s many attractions and activities.

The best is yet to come.

Watch this column and daily posts in www.whatsupnewp.com for additional openings of restaurants, cafes, hotels, museums, mansions, and more in the coming days and weeks. Indoor dining will return soon as well.

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If you are still home, furloughed or laid off from your main work site, I want to encourage you to continue to read and research, virtually explore museum spaces and historic places, and learn more about this island we call home. Consider this time as a gift that allows you to improve your knowledge and better equip you for the immense dignity of the work that awaits you. 

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In addition to the following local web sites, where you will find easy

access to photos, videos, and brief history lessons, here is a review of

a recent [and fun!] Newport history book.

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BOOKS FOR NEWPORT TOUR GUIDES & GREETERS

Here is a fun read and some insights into the work involved in conserving the homes and buildings from the Gilded Age and beyond.  The ideas and techniques may be applied to any house you with to care for.

The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: A Practical Guide to the Conservation of Old Houses and Their Contents.  

Compiled by Hermione Sandwith and Sheila Stainton. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1984. 

This is more than an instruction manual. It is a window into the soul and magic of what made some of our most revered historic homes such delightful and inviting places to live in and which have been now preserved for visitors to enjoy. For the tour guide or maintenance person working in one of Newport historic homes, the information and insights provided in this manual offer the details and rational for the protective measures that are taken by building caretakers. The issues of light, humidity, atmospheric conditions as well as specifics of preserving and caring for the wide variety of materials, objects, furnishings, wall coverings, and décor are addressed in detail. In each chapter, the editors provide the best practices of the past that continue to be implemented to preserve these historic assets. 

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TOUR GUIDES TIP OF THE WEEK – BODY LANGUAGE BASICS 

Without speaking, you are telling your guests what you think and how you are feeling. Your body language is a big give-away. How you stand, where you hold your hands, the type and size of smile you have on your face, and fifty other subtle movements and tics send out a silent stream of information about your mood and attitude. So, what are the rules?  There are no rules, but there are practical and best practice guidelines. 

Here are five to remember: 1) Stand up straight. 2) Hold hands down at your sides and keep them out of your pockets. Hands in pockets send a message of “bored,” “tired,” and “lazy.” Your hands should always be ready to help, not hidden in your pockets. 3) Your face should have a relaxed, peaceful smile – mouth closed; teeth hidden. (Note: In this era of COVID-19 and the continuing order to wear masks in many retail sites, your smile may not be visible. Your eyes will supply the smile your mouth is making.) 4) Eyes should be open and alert. Look your guests in their eyes. 5) If you are sitting, always stand to greet guests and engage in conversation. 

BOTTOM LINE: With a little thinking, you can use your body language to send out positive messages.  

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Each week in this column we share tips and strategies for planning,

marketing, and providing quality guest services. If you have a suggestion, 

please send it along to kennethproudfoot@hotmail.com

We will share it with all our readers. And you. Thanks!

Each day, until this public health crisis passes, and we are all again fully open for business, please take time to read, learn, study, and better understand our city’s exciting heritage. We encourage you to stay current by reading the daily news sites [such as WhatsUpNewp.com], attending lectures, making online and virtual visits to other historic homes and museums, and walking around our great City-by-the-Sea. 

Meanwhile, continue to check for openings and available services at our local restaurants, stores, and historical sites on the city’s visitor site at www.discovernewport.org with daily updates on www.whatsupnewp.com   

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OUR WEB SITE LISTINGS

  Belcourt of Newport (www.belcourt.com) – Wonderful videos of the restoration of this gem 

 Fort Adams (www.fortadams.org)

 Touro Synagogue (www.tourosynagogue.org) – Read the history, view the photo galleries

 Museum of Newport Irish History (www.newportirishhistory.org) – Be sure to check out the videos of the lectures on their web site: newportirishhistory.org/lectures.html

 Jamestown Historical Society (jamestownhistoricalsociety.org) – In January, the Society’s Collections Committee uploaded 41,834 records to the online database of holdings. Check it out this rich resource on their web site.

 Rose Island (www.roseisland.org

 Newport Historical Society (www.NewportHistory.org)

 Preservation Society of Newport County (www.NewportMansions.org) — Several new virtual tours have recently been added to the web site

 Newport Art Museum (www.NewportArtMuseum.org

 Gansett Cruises (www.gansettcruises.com) – Check out their photo & video galleries 

 Redwood Library and Athenaeum (www.RedwoodLibrary.org

 The Newport Experience (www.newportexperience.com) – Includes OceanCliff and the Schooner Aurora

 Audrain Automobile Museum (www.AudrainAutoMuseum.org) – The YouTube site for this museum is worth a look  

 Discover Newport (www.DiscoverNewport.org) – Video, photos & numerous links to more

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OPERATING SCHEDULES UPDATES

With so many cancellations and postponements and new ones announced every day, it is wishful thinking to list any upcoming events with any assurance they will take place. The future is still too unknown and constantly changing.  Therefore, this column is suspending its regular detailed listings until such time as Newport re-opens and the major attractions and historic sites post their new schedules and re-set the dates for key events. 

Until then, please check back daily with www.whatsupnewp.com for schedule changes and updates. 

KENNETH PROUDFOOT, a Newport Tour Escort and Guide, is author of The Official 2018 Newport Tour Guides & Greeters Handbook (Shoreline Press (RI), 2017). 

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