Greater Philadelphia Area Docent Consortium
Ten Steps for Creating a Regional Docent Group
National Docent Symposium 2011- St. Louis
Docents coordinated visits to local cultural institutions at the 1999 National Docent Symposium in Philadelphia
For the 1999 National Docent Symposium meeting in Philadelphia, a group of docents from our region were charged with the assignment to coordinate visits to local institutions for the NDS attendees. The process of meeting and exchanging ideas to coordinate these visits was stimulating and exciting enough for these original organizers to want to continue meeting and exchanging ideas.
Museums of all kinds, botanical gardens, zoos, historical houses with docent groups of any size
We made a list of the cultural institutions in the area, including, museums of all kinds, botanical gardens, zoos, historical houses; in short, any organization giving public tours by volunteers. The size of the docent group, whether 5 or 500, was not a factor in inviting participation.
Contact the volunteer or staff docent coordinator of each organization
Next, we contacted the volunteer or staff docent coordinator of each organization with an invitation to meet. From this core of interested people and organizations, the Greater Philadelphia Area Docent Consortium was born. We meet three times per year: October, February and May.
4. Meeting Participants
Each organization may send two delegates per meeting
Each participating organization may sends two delegates per meeting. One is regarded as the regular representative and the other delegate rotates thus allowing variety docents of the member organizations to participate.
5. Communication by email
As email became standard, communications became electronic.
Seed money plus bi-annual membership dues of $25
Finances: we were given seed money of $500 from the Graduate Guides (a group of retired docents) from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Soon we instituted biannual membership dues of $25 from each participating organization which cover our minimal expenses.
7. The Meetings –General Business
Member organizations volunteer their spaces—docents visit other venues.
Meetings: Member organizations volunteer their spaces, encouraging area docents to visit other venues. Each meeting is about 2-3 hours in length; starting with a coffee and greeting time, followed by a short business meeting, then the main discussion (See # 8). The host organization usually welcomes all and presents a spotlight on some aspect of the host’s docent or education programs. The morning is usually concluded with docent led tours of that particular venue. Post meeting luncheons often continue the discussions and generate continuing contacts between docents.
8. The Meetings –Single Topic of Docent Interest
The focus of each meeting is a single topic on general docent concerns which always generates animated discussion and participation. We have found having a single topic for discussion at the meeting works well for delegate preparation and keeping questions and the exchange of information focused. (See hand out sheets.)
9. Greater Philadelphia Area Docent Consortium Structure
In time, we created a Steering Committee, with Chair, Vice-chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and three Members-at-Large. The steering committee meets one month prior to the regular meeting for planning purposes. Eventually, a set of By-Laws was created as the Consortium became formalized.
10. Most Significant Achievement
Bi-annual daylong "Crossroads" meeting with speaker and roundtable discussions
In 2003, we decided to plan a full-day workshop to reach out to more docents. We call this a "Crossroads" meeting and it is held bi-annually, in October, alternating years with the National Docent Symposium. We invite a speaker, offer roundtable discussions on topics similar to those in our national meetings and provide a catered luncheon. We charge for this day and use dues to help offset the costs. We have now held four of these successful “Crossroads” gatherings each with an attendance of approximately 100 docents. Our regional group has come full circle to the inspirational origins of the NDS.