The Rubin Museum Docents: Training for “The Future” (June 2018)

As museum educators, we're often worried about what's next: upcoming exhibitions, our next tour, planning special programs, etc. But if we open our minds to a different understanding of time, can we form a new relationship with the future?

Art, science, and Eastern philosophies offer a key to unlocking this possibility and we are exploring all these perspectives at the Rubin Museum of Art in 2018. This entire year will focus on reframing our relationship with the future and engaging visitors through future-themed exhibitions, programs, tours, and events.This was a welcome challenge when planning for docent trainings. My goal was to prepare our team to engage with visitors through the lens of Future, encouraging them to consider their hopes and anxieties and learn how concepts in Buddhism and Hinduism can help them expand their understanding.

In addition to our trainings and walkthroughs focused on the new exhibitions, our staff met with the docents for brainstorming sessions, thinking about ways to connect the Future theme and subthemes to content in our collection. We collectively compiled fun facts and talking points that directly relate contemporary life with these concepts. Docents shared helpful articles, books, videos, anything relating to the future or time, within our group.

Some of the engaging techniques that we developed together...

• At the beginning of your tour, invite visitors to close their eyes. Using a timer, ask them to raise their hand when they think one minute has passed. See how people's perception varies.

• Timed looking - ask visitors to look at an object for 4 seconds then turn around. Ask them what they perceived. Ask them to look again for 10 seconds then turn around. What did they notice this time? Ask them to look again for 20 seconds. What else did they find?

• Slow/Fast walking between objects – ask visitors how this affects their sense of timing on the tour.

• Before/After – ask visitors what they think happened before or after the scene. Why did the artist choose to capture this moment in time?

Through teamwork and creativity, we are continuously developing ways to engage our visitors. Join us on a docent tour at the Rubin Museum and learn more about what The Future has in store for you.

Laura Sloan, Manager of Docent & Access Programs, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, NY 

May 3, 2018