Casual or Structured Tours

Mina Shea, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Facilitator

Corinne Smith, Evansville Museum of Art

Dee Isham, Phippen Museum (AZ)

Jan Mishel, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Jim Letchworth, San Antonio Museum of Art

Kim Tyndall, Currier Museum of Art (NH)

Laura Berns, Harm Museum of Art (FL)

Margo Bowden, Clark Art Institute (MA)

Peggy (Margaret) Gordon, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Shauna Mike, San Jose Museum of Art

Verna Witt, Mint Museums (NC)


Wide range of meaning for both casual and structured tours

People differed as to the meaning of the word structured versus casual

  • Structured viewed as planned ahead, certain objects selected and perhaps a theme has to be chosen
  • Structured tours become casual when you are reading your audience
  • Casual could refer to more of an attitude toward your audience – assessing them and tailoring a tour more to their needs
  • Casual can infer that you are not just talking to the visitor telling them all the facts but may have more of an interchange
  • Zoning is a term used for a less structured tour – where the docent stands in the galleries and interacts with the visitor about the art on a more casual basis – more of a conversation

It’s really about balance and openness to the situation  

  • To combine structured and casual, one docent told that they are on duty in the galleries for 2 hours; one half hour casually standing in the gallery before and after the one hour tour
  • Some museums offer both tours and “zoning” which is a more casual approach


  • Don’t tell everyone everything you know, use the inquiry method to assess your audience knowledge and then share appropriately
  • Thread in your information while you engage to offer a more balanced tour

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