Insight from the Council

The Directors of the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) not only are active docents in their respective cultural institutions but they are frequent and ongoing participants in the symposia over many years. They offer their insight from their experiences at the symposia and how the NDSC offers cultural institutions throughout the United States and Canada an excellent forum for the exchange of new ideas and best practices.


Hazel Peach, Docent, Philadelphia Museum of Art; NDSC Director (February 2019)

As chair of the Recruitment Committee I am excited to let you know that during our 2019 symposium in Washington, D.C. we will be electing new directors who will serve on the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) for a four-year term. Recruitment starts in April and you can find out more on our Director Information and Recruitment page.  
The NDSC is looking for docents/guides who have a shared interest in continuing the mission of the NDSC to promote continuous improvement in docent practice. The directors’ primary responsibility is to work together as a group promoting the National Docent Symposium (NDS) and other NDSC educational initiatives. Directors participate and encourage engagement with our interactive website and the National Docents Forum Facebook closed group, as well as promoting our Docent Handbook 2. We seek individuals with excellent communications skills and an ability to collaborate and work remotely. Specifically, this year we are looking for docents/guides who have skills in marketing, development or social media. During their term NDSC directors attend four NDSC business meetings which include two symposia. This is an all-volunteer organization and directors serve at their own expense.
This is a great opportunity to connect and work with docents and guides from all over the United States and Canada. Council directors often visit their fellow Council members' museums, sharing ideas and at the same time developing many rewarding friendships.
Please consider joining us!
Email us with any questions This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Click here to learn more about Hazel Peach.

Linda Oidtmann, Docent, Hood Museum of Art, Hanover, NH; New England Director, NDSC, and Chair NDSC Education Grants (November 2018)

As of 2017, the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) has awarded 43 education grants to volunteer docents/guides attending a National Docent Symposium for the first time.   The grants cover the registration fee and support the NDSC goal of broadening the number of museums, galleries and cultural institutions that will send docents/guides to future symposia. It is our belief that all docents/guides can benefit from the outstanding educational programs, speakers and ideas offered at National Docent Symposia.

In 2003 a scholarship (education grant) fund was established by the Natural History Museum of the County of Los Angeles, to honor Carole and Gene Kramer. Carole (a docent and former NDSC president) and Gene were strong supporters of the museum, both sharing generously of their time and resources. The Kramers continued to add to the fund on a regular basis for many years.

Most recently, grants have been solely financed from NDSC funds raised largely through sales of The Docent Handbook 2 and commemorative gifts and donations to the NDSC. This year, four of the grants will be funded by gifts received in memory of Sybil Williamson, a docent at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, and NDSC director and Past-President; and a gift given by Council members to honor Anne Stellmon, our current Past President.

Visit the NDSC Education Grants page to donate to the education grants fund to honor or acknowledge the service of a docent/guide at your museum. The NDSC is a 501 (c) (3); for US taxpayers your donation is fully tax-deductible.  Contact us if you have any questions regarding your gift at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..    

Click here to learn more about Linda Oidtmann.

By Jan Thorman, Docent, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD; Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, NDSC (August 2018)

Every other year since 1981, volunteer docents from many different kinds of institutions--art museums, natural history museums, science museums, botanical gardens, children’s museums, history museums and historical sites--have come together at the National Docent Symposium. At the Symposium, they exchange of ideas, education, fellowship, and learning with colleagues across the United States and Canada.
Organized and presented by docents for docents, each Symposium offers a unique and useful program, including workshops by docents and museum educators, informative off-site workshops and special tours, guest speakers, and more. The Symposium also offers participants a chance to learn about museums and cultural sites in the host city and the challenges and innovations of their docents.
While each symposium is organized by a different host museum or museums, they all offer a rich formal program as well as opportunities to network with docents from different parts of North America. Docents who attend a Symposium return to their home institution full of energy, enthusiasm, and new ideas.
Join us in Washington, DC, October 24-27, 2019, to discover for yourself the excitement and energy of the National Docent Symposium.

Questions about the symposium? contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Click here to learn more about Jan Thorman


Madelyn Mayberry, Vice President, National Docent Symposium Council (June 2018)

The NDS 2019 Washington DC team has put out a call for Breakout/Workshop presenters. The deadline is August 1, 2018. Are you thinking of submitting a breakout? What will make it irresistible?

One of the great breakouts I attended in Montreal was presented by docents from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. They modeled a hands-on activity designed for 6th graders to build museum literacy through actually designing an exhibit. Essentially, we learned to be curators. We handled actual art/material culture objects which the docents had brought with them and, after following instructions to "observe, describe, investigate, analyze and infer," we arranged them in a thematic sequence. In a short time, by incorporating a sensory experience, we were studying objects from the past, but also opening up to each other and having fun! It was active, it gave us an opportunity to connect and form relationships.  

Docents and staff from the Huntington Museum of Art (WV) introduced a middle-school study program called "Turn Up The Heat." Museum studios and the ceramic collection are both used to make direct connections between art and STEM fields. The museum's collections have inspired other STEAM tours. One focused on the history of glass-making, another on the chemistry and physics of firearms and a photosynthesis tour of the Edwards Conservatory that asks students to consider "how does the heat and light of the sun turn into food for plants." Several handouts detailed the nuts and bolts aspects of developing a STEAM program from scratch and photos of students and docents in action made the tours come alive. It was an intense and inspiring experience.


Both sessions gave me useful and tested ideas, methods and materials that I could take home and adapt to my situation. But I could get all that just sitting on a hotel chair and listening to a lecture. What made them memorable for me was the active involvement of the senses (holding and passing around objects and debating their meaning) in the first and, in the second, the "you are there" visual documentary that immersed us vicariously in the STEAM tour experience and sparked lively Q and A. Active engagement by attendees is where excitement happens.

What does it mean to create a memorable experience? What do you personally find engaging, inspiring and uplifting? Do you expect time and space for networking? How important is it to have a little fun? If you are thinking of submitting a proposal you might consider these questions as you prepare your application.

The deadline for submitting proposals to present in the 2019 symposium is August 1, 2018.

Questions about the symposium? contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Click here to learn more about Madelyn.  


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