Docents at the Indianapolis Museum of Art organized the first nationwide meeting of docents in 1981. A second symposium was held in 1983 at the Milwaukee Art Museum and a third in1985 at the Oakland Museum. At this time it was believed necessary that a permanent advisory board be established to ensure continuation of the symposium which since then has been held every other year at a museum in the United States or Canada.
In 1988 bylaws were drafted and the National Docent Symposium Council was born. The NDSC was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the State of California and Federal tax-exempt status was obtained. A permanent mailing address was established. The duties of the Council include developing a current list of institutions with docent programs, selecting symposium sites, advising and assisting host committees, and maintaining the website.
The Board of Directors of the NDSC is composed of two delegates for each of the six American Association of Museums regions, as well as two from Canada. Officers of the NDSC, co-chairs of the current, past and future symposia who are docents at the hosting museum, and selected advisors also serve as directors. The NDSC directors serve four-year terms at their own expense. The council meets annually at the symposium site.
A kaleidoscope was chosen by the Toledo Museum of Art as the symbol of its 1987 Symposium and then adopted as the logo for the National Docent Symposium Council.
The Docent Handbook, edited by former directors Carole Kramer and Helga Keller, was published by the NDSC in 2002. More than 8000 copies have been sold. It is a valuable resource which is used by many museums in their training program. Individual copies have been sold all over the world.
In 1998 the NDSC decided to establish a website. Then a director, Anne Eller, obtained the domain www.docents.net. She worked with the web designer and allowed the council to use this domain. The NDSC went on-line in 2001. Faced with the rapidly increasing connectivity of the docent world through electronic media, in 2010 the NDSC decided to re-design its website to better meet the needs of today’s docents. A more comprehensive domain name was obtained - www.nationaldocents.org – and is owned by the NDSC. This site went on-line during the 2011 St. Louis symposium and will become a true interactive forum for communication and exchange of ideas among docents.
In 2003, a scholarship fund was set up in honor of Carole and Eugene Kramer, who were instrumental in establishing the National Docent Symposium Council. Profits from sales of the handbook have enabled the council to add to this fund. Each year Kramer Educational Grants, in the amount of the symposium registration fee and including a copy of The Docent Handbook, have been awarded to symposium attendees. In 2011, eight grants were given.
Members of the NDSC have participated in and sponsored sessions at the annual American Association of Museums meeting. Reciprocal website links are maintained and informational notices are shared.
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