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Peer to Peer: Perfecting Your Craft

National Docent Symposium 2024 Atlanta  

Mark your calendars! The National Docent Symposium is headed to Atlanta – November 14-17, 2024! The High Museum of Art Docent Corps hosted the Symposium in 1993, and we can't wait to welcome you back.

We can't think of a better place than Atlanta to Perfect Your Craft. Atlanta is a diverse city with a rich cultural heritage that is always looking forward. The city boasts over 40 world-class museums and cultural sites, plus extensive dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Atlanta presents endless opportunities to explore new ideas and expand your horizons.

Our Theme, Peer to Peer: Perfecting Your Craft, reflects what the National Docent Symposium is all about – docents learning from docents. A biannual conference put together by docents for docents. Peer to Peer: Perfecting Your Craft is also deeply personal for our High Docent Corps. It's the name of one of our docents' favorite programs and has its roots in a Montreal 2017 National Docent Symposium breakout session attended by one of our co-chairs.

You will not want to miss this exciting event, so sign up for NDSC emails and follow NDSC on Facebook to get the latest details. And stay tuned for the launch of our NDSAtl24 website!  Video link: Atlanta welcomes you back.

Turning Pages Book Club Inspires Visitors

Author: Betsy Burgess, Docent, Nevada Museum of Art with contributions from Book Club Docent Co-chairs and Museum Staff

No matter the curatorial focus, your museum can create excitement and curiosity around the subject with a book club that can provide an entry-point into meaningful discussions and discoveries.


   At the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), like many other museums and cultural facilities, closures due to covid forced a rethinking of how our institutions connect to our surrounding communities. Video and Zoom links became a huge part of adapting “to bring art to the classroom” instead of the classrooms to the art. Lectures and curator presentation given to the AGO membership continued to keep us linked to the outside and entertained while we were confined to our homes. It also meant, a large number of our staff had their talents redeployed supporting these activities and allowing for and justifying continued employment. Volunteers supported this strategy while remaining on hold waiting for a time when the AGO staff could focus on us and we could reengage with the public.

While waiting for our time, Gallery Guides stayed active through self organized zoom meetings. During Volunteer Week, we organized a zoom tour of some of our favourite AGO works of art for all the volunteers. Staff made time to keep us informed of current AGO activities and timing of reopening strategies. Gallery Guides continued to stay active and took advantage of generous offers from other North America galleries who offered tours of their exhibitions. We made new connections.

Meet the NDSAtl24 Co-Chairs

                               Dianna Smeal, Kristen Keirsey and Bryan Brooks

It takes a lot of work and strong team leaders to make a symposium happen. We are thrilled to have a great set of High Museum of Art docents as Co-Chairs of our next Symposium in Atlanta in November of 2024. They are working hard with many other volunteers to make Atlanta another exception experience for all the docents who attend. Learn about the Atlanta co-chairs.

A video of our first webinar of 2023, Diversifying the Docent Corps: A Case Study from the Crocker Art Museum, an encore presentation of a breakout session from the Kansas City National Docent Symposium last September 

The Crocker Art Museum's Docent Council initiative to diversify its corps has reaped signifigant results over the past three years. Hear their stories and strategies during this one-hour program.

To view a pdf of the presentation slides, please click here.


"It's the PERFECT Time"

Jane Chu, keynote speaker at the National Docent Symposium in Kansas City, brought a rich perspective
from her years as the chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts. She stated that whether you
are a docent, guide, gallery teacher, or educator, there has never been a better time to be involved in
your institution.

Reflecting on the power of poetry in art 

by Gail Paredes-Ewen, Docent, Phoenix Art Museum

Recently, at the National Docent Symposium, we had the privilege of listening to a talk
given by poet, activist, educator, and Director of Inclusive Learning and Creative Impact at
the Kansas City Museum, Glenn North. Mr. North has a very impressive list of
accomplishments and collaborations and his title alone made me want to be him when I
grow up.  But it was his poetry most of all that moved me and even brought me to tears. 

The Breakout Sessions at the National Docent Symposium are among the most anticipated activities during the three-day event. This year was no exception, with full rooms, great participation and plenty of helpful takeaways. While we may not be in Kansas City anymore, we can still benefit from the wisdom shared during the 30+ presentations. Materials from these sessions are now available on our website here.  You’ll find topics categorized into six areas: School Touring; Audience Engagement; Touring Specialty Populations; Recruitment, Training and Review; Technology; and Other Docent Activities.

Please use these materials for educational, non-commercial purposes only.

Thank you to all our wonderful presenters. We appreciate you sharing your experiences, ideas and practices with docents and guides everywhere.


The NDSC welcomed a new president at the symposium in Kansas City and said goodbye to an able leader as she retired to an advisory role on the board. Madelyn Mayberry (right) stepped down from her position at the helm of NDSC after three years of hard work in uncharted territory. Michelle Carpenter (left) has stepped into her new role as president. Read here Michelle's closing remarks as she celebrated accomplishments and looked to the future.

It takes the collaboration of many to create a successful symposium. By all accounts, NDS 2022, Get Connected. Get inspired. Get Kansas City!, was a rousing success!  The National Docent Symposium Council extends sincere gratitude to the host site, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, their director and staff, and all the volunteers from the Nelson-Atkins and from their many partner museums and sites across the city.

Most particular thanks go to Symposium co-chairs Pati Chasnoff, Carol Cowden, Julie Haas and Denise Saper for their tireless efforts in the years, months and weeks leading up to the Symposium and throughout the days we spent in Kansas City.

Despite the one-year postponement due to the pandemic, the entire team persevered with renewed energy, flexibility and determination. Thank you for an unforgettable and rewarding experience!

 Building on the 2017 Docent Handbook 2, the National Docent Symposium Council has published Tours with Children and Teens: A Handbook for Docents and Guides. The new
publication enhances and deepens information and guidance for touring with children pre-K through high school, home schoolers and multi-aged groups, and those with special needs. Practical help and suggestions are enlivened with lots of examples from a variety of museums, and illustrated with color photographs.  The approaches presented throughout the handbook are equally relevant for in-person and virtual tours.

Co-authors Lindsay Noonan McAuliffe and Betsy Vourlekis (both from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, Freer and Sackler Galleries) and Jan Thorman (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore) have drawn on their own years of experience as docents, input from other docents and guides, and lots of research, to bring you this exciting and informative handbook.  We hope that it will inspire confidence and enjoyment for the important work of docents and guides with young visitors.

For more information or to purchase a printed or digital version, please click on the link in the sidebar or visit this page.  


Betsy Vourlekis Jan Thorman NDS 2019Lindsay McAuliffe NDS

In this 40th Ruby Anniversary year of NDSC we are highlighting the efforts of dedicated volunteers to bring best practices to our docent/guide community.

Betsy Vourlekis, Jan Thorman and Lindsay McAuliffe (pictured, left to right) are experienced docents who took on the task of researching and writing the new NDSC Handbook Touring with Children and Teens. Shelagh Barrington explains how the co-authors' combined backgrounds, extensive research, and input from other docents and guides  have resulted in a professional and engaging roadmap for docent/guides.

Read the full article here.

The Docent Handbook 2 

Now available in two versions, digital and print.

For more information and ordering instructions, click this LINK.

Be a Resource!  We welcome articles for publication on the NDSC website. 


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