Archived Articles

Lifelong Learners

Communication, Education and the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC)

The NDSC is dedicated to providing an ongoing forum for docent education and the exchange of ideas. We utilize two forums for supporting the purpose of the NDSC:, a general information center, and the National Docent Symposium (NDS) for a real-time, interactive learning experience for docents.

Two of the most common attributes that connects lifelong learners (LLLs) and docents are: excellent communications skills and the desire to improve through continuing education.  It seems to me that you LLLs and the NDS just might be made for each other. Attending a NDS is a smorgasbord of learning opportunities for like-minded LLLs.  If you identify with several of the ten attributes of a LLL put 2017 NDS Montreal on your bucket list of things to do.

Please take a moment to enjoy this message from Anne Stellmon, our new National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) president. Connecting with Anne is her way of communicating with docents everywhere and getting to know each other better.

Connecting with Anne
Fueling Your Passion

First, a thank you to Cincinnati!
I’d like to personally thank Carolyn Honkomp and Patty Hubbard, the 2015 Cincinnati Symposium co-chairs, and their superlative committees for an exceptional educational experience. The host museums, the Taft and the Cincinnati Museum of Art, were the perfect partners for making the symposium possible and the city of Cincinnati’s hospitality and vitality added to the ambience. And of course, thank you to the 361 docents and museum professionals from the US and Canada who supported the 18th biennial National Docent Symposium. Symposia can’t happen without the symbiotic relationships between the symposia organizers, attendees and the National Docent Symposium Council. It’s a win, win and win for everyone!

September 2015

In keeping with the Symposium’s theme, we invite you to arrive a day early to participate in one of the elective tours that will explore both the past and the future of Cincinnati. These tours, all happening on Thursday September 17, 2015, offer an insight into what is special about Cincinnati and certainly there is something for everyone. If you are a history buff, a student of faith or architecture, crazy for art or simply want a feeling for living in this great city, these tours are for you. 

Because there are too many wonderful planned tours for us to outline all of them, you may wish to plan your arrival on Wednesday, September 16, 2015, to take full advantage of the offerings. There will be something for everyone to enjoy. Look for all the tour possibilities when registration opens.

The National Docent Symposium in Cincinnati has accepted twenty institutions to host workshops at the Cincinnati Symposium in September 2015.  We are so thrilled about the learning opportunities provided by museums across the United States and Canada we wanted to share some highlights.  Stay tuned as we unroll our featured workshops!

A Twenty-Year Tradition

Each spring for the last twenty years, the Denver Art Museum has invited an entire elementary school community, to include students, staff, and parents, to participate in a morning of artful experiences based on the DAM’s visual skills tours for children.  This program emphasizes the DAM’s commitment to school and family programs and is a positive step in developing long-lasting relationships with the schools selected for the event.

Small Museums of various kinds, found throughout the United States, house many treasurers. The NDSC recognizes the importance of these museums and their docents.  


Timing is everything and we are in luck.  The National Docent Symposium 2015 in Cincinnati falls during “Zinzinnati Oktoberfest”.  You will be able to walk out the door of your hotel right onto a six block area of downtown transformed into a German village complete with 50 food vendors, live entertainment and plenty of beer.  The festival runs from September 19-20, 2015.


Do you remember the first time you had a transformative art experience? Mine was during museum tours and painting walks along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., with my high school art class taught by Walter Bartman. Seeing monumental American landscapes in the Smithsonian, I was amazed and humbled while still inspired to try harder in my own painting.

For Asian Art Museum Commissioner David Lei, his lifelong passion for Asian art followed an encounter in a museum with a teacher of another sort—docent and longtime Asian Art Museum supporter Helen Desai. In David’s words: “I always liked the view of the Japanese Tea Garden from the galleries, but the objects did not speak to me. Although I am Chinese with educated parents, they seldom talked to me about Asian art. This all changed in 1968 when I took a docent tour from a very nice blonde lady and was blown away by the symbolic meanings and the connectivity of the objects to my life. Ever since, it has been a wonderful journey of curiosity and learning. Years later when I became active with the Asian, I recognized the docent to be Helen Desai.”

We often think of settlers to the new world living in harsh, primitive conditions, and certainly the very first settlers did endure such conditions. But with time, many of them gained immense wealth and through trade with Europe and the Far East, created elegant homes and a lavish life style.

This collection of works was assembled by the Brooklyn Museum in New York and is currently on exhibit until May 18, 2014 at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. This exhibit allows museumgoers to enter these homes and see what their owners had collected.

The exhibition is organized around an elite Spanish colonial home, allowing docents to lead adults and children through the public rooms, and into the more private areas. Public rooms like the Sala, in which families entertained important guests, were hung with family portraits and decorated with beautifully-crafted imported and locally- produced-luxury items. In these rooms, the family displayed its wealth and position in the world.

For example the portrait (oil on canvas, by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, 1806) of Don Tadeo Bravo de Rivero in full military dress displays the red-cross insignia of the Order of Santiago on his left lapel. Children especially love the dog symbolizing fidelity. Goya inscribed the painting to “my friend Don Tadeo Bravo de Rivero” in place of his signature.

We are pleased to offer so many resources to docents on our website. We want this site to be as dynamic as possible. You can help us. We are interested in what is happening at your museum in your docent program. Docents have a long history of learning from each other. Have you developed a new tour that is working well with adolescents? Do you have some tricks using a new technology? Has your museum recently started a program to evaluate docents that seems to work well? We would love to hear from you. Please write a short article and send it to Kristen Keirsey, Public Relations Chair. Please include your name and museum affiliation and any visual material if you have any (a picture of the author or the museum would be great). We will let you know if your submission needs clarification but leave the rest up to us. This is a great way to connect to docents from all museums and improve the quality of what we do.

Page 1 of 2