More Docent News

Sharing Ideas and Experience - Be a Resource for your fellow docents!  

   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.

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.

Missed it? Diversifying the Docent Corps webinar video is available now.

The video of our first webinar of 2023, an encore presentation of a breakout session from the Kansas City National Docent Symposium last September, is now available: here 

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

We were thrilled to welcome 960 webinar registrants. The docent and guide community was well represented - 650 attendees from 45 states, five Canadian provinces and 200 museums/institutions joined us for the live program. 

We look forward to presenting more programs and resources this year. The webinar was made possible by donations from our supportive docent and guide community. Please consider making a contribution toward future programming by clicking on the donate button on the home page or here.


Betsy Burgess and Linda Miller, Docents, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno NV (Spring 2022)

The Nevada Museum of Art currently has an exhibition of works by Jean LaMarr, a native American artist. Museum docents and staff felt it was important when presenting her art to learn the story of the local Stewart Indian residential school, one of over 500 Indian residential schools operational in the US from 1890 to about 1980.

“Experiences Make Better Docents” is a Nevada Museum of Art program to develop empathy and understanding of the lives and cultural backgrounds of diverse populations, to be better guides for our visitors. Lack of knowledge about the recent history and culture of Native American people presented challenges to the docents presenting the art.  Museum staff arranged an opportunity to learn more.  

Bob Del Prete, Docent, The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina (Spring, 2022)

As we all experienced during Covid shutdowns, the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte North Carolina was forced to adjust. As a Mint docent and like many in the National Docent Symposium community I witnessed firsthand the many changes that we all endured during the pandemic; tours cancelled, the museum closed, in-person docent meetings and docent field trips cancelled. We found new ways to engage, including outdoor activities and walking tours. We found great stories outside the museum walls!

Jessica Gaynor, Chair-Elect, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Docent Council (Fall 2021)

Little did we know how much we missed each other and our connection to our museum, until one day, no, actually, one year, we had to do without. This is the story of how the docents at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) stayed connected not only with one another, but with docents in museums all over our country.

MMFA article July 2021 
Louise Gauvreau and Louise Émond, Guides, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

As the pandemic halted many museum activities earlier this year, MMFA Guides continued, through Zoom, their weekly onsite training and workshops for their nearly 200 active Guides. For the past few years the Guides have used a dialogical approach, or open-ended questions, to encourage visitors to interact with guides about the art. Research shows that we retain more information when we are actively involved in an activity.

Image 1 editorial teamThe editorial team of docent to docent magazine meeting on Zoom to brainstorm content: Left to Right: Docents Carolyn Galbreath, Steve Luppino, Luanne Andreotti (editor-in-chief), Pam Reed, Marty Johnson, Randee MacDonald, Ruth Modric.

Luanne Andreotti, Docent, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (Spring 2021)

The Birth Story

Fostering personal connection among our 210 active docents and 107 supporting docents was the goal of our digital magazine start-up. It was conceived at the start of the pandemic by me and an advisory team of former FAMSF Docent executive council chairs. Along with touring, we knew docents missed the social aspect of lunches in the cafes after lectures, in-person parties, and travel to other museums. A receptive docent executive counsel applauded our vision and allocated docent funds for a website developer. We collaborated with the indispensable designer, settling on templates, fonts, colors, and images. The format of docent to docent was set by early June 2020. As a magazine writer and editor with experience, I was charged with leading a full production crew of docents. I recruited a team of novice editors including three detail-oriented former attorneys, none of whom had previously been involved in publishing, not to mention online publications. In shifting gears seamlessly, these adaptable and resourceful colleagues have clearly demonstrated the FAMSF organizational mantra: Be Flexible.

Joe Romito, Docent, National Air and Space Museum (Spring 2021)

From the moment the pandemic led to the shutdown of all Smithsonian Institution facilities in March 2020, docents at the National Air and Space Museum began looking forward to the day when they could return to doing what they do best: talk with visitors about the museum’s tremendous collection of air and space artifacts, and tell the stories of the people and events associated with those artifacts. Thanks to innovative thinking and a lot of hard work by museum staff and the docents themselves, Air and Space docents were able to resume their docent duties in September with the initiation of the museum’s Virtual Volunteer Artifact Station Program.

Lee Rubinstein, Docent, J. Paul Getty Museum (Spring 2021)

If I had my life to do over again, I would do some things differently. Instead of minoring in Art History, I would have majored in it, and then I would have set my sights on curating as a career.

To satisfy my interest in curation I took a college class entitled Gallery Management. There were many interesting assignments; the class made a floor plan of the college’s art gallery, helped hang a guest artist’s show, as well as planned the student art show. The mid-term assignment was to design a mini-catalogue for an art show with selections of our choice focusing on any period of art. I immediately decided on the Dutch Golden Age and my show was entitled “Dutch Treat: Holland’s Golden Age of Painting and the Rise of the Middle Class.” I was in my comfort zone!

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