Docents were also invited to attend a "study day" following the lecture, with additional speakers and exercises designed to stimulate discussion among museum professionals on topics of race and cultural bias. Curators, conservators, educators and administrators were challenged to see the museum through the eyes of students, teachers and visitors of different races and cultures. At the conclusion of that day, participants were asked to reflect upon what was most urgent and important about the issues raised. The answers differed among individuals, mostly based on their roles at the museum, but all were thoughtful and invited further study.
Both the lecture and the study day stimulated intense reflection, some discomfort, and a lot of discussion among docents who participated. Interested docents met informally to react and develop suggestions for follow up among the entire docent corps. Fifteen suggestions were proposed for docents, from revising our "welcome" to including more diverse objects on our tours. That list of suggestions has been submitted to the Docent Executive Committee, and working groups have been formed to advance several of the suggestions over the summer.
Othello, by Pietro Calvi, c.1873, courtesy of the Walters Art Museum
We've only just begun, but the work feels important and urgent. We can do more to make sure that all visitors to the Walters feel welcome, represented and understood.
We welcome your docent ideas and experiences. Share them by:
--joining the National Docents Forum Facebook group, an interactive forum for docents and guides.