Why are We Docents?

Montreal-Museum-of-Fine-ArtsThe 29 docents who served as National Docent Symposium Council directors for the past two years have collectively accumulated 563 years of docent experience.  Imagine what that number would be if we could calculate years served for all active docents! Do you ever wonder why so many of us willingly give our time and our effort to guiding visitors through our museums?  These quotes from some former NDSC directors might give you an answer:

"My most rewarding docent experience was when a very small fourth grader slipped a dollar bill in my hand for the greatest tour he ever had!"                      

—Bud Johnson, Birmingham Museum of Art,  Alabama
Former NDSC president


"A child on one of my tours recently shared with me that he was told by his father that the tour would be boring….At the end of the tour I asked the boy what he would tell his dad.  He replied, ‘He made a big mistake and now he will have to come.' "

                 —Betty Collins, McNay Art Museum
Co-Chair 2001 San Antonio symposium


"My most rewarding docent experience was with an inner city child (part of a multi-visit program) who could not understand why he couldn’t find me when he brought his family to the museum on a weekend."

—Susan Carr, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio


"After leading a curriculum based tour on the ancient societies of Aztec, Maya and Inca, a student announced that when he grew up he was going to be an archeologist."

—Marty Clark,  Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC


"My most unusual docent experience was hosting an exhibition of memorabilia (including clothing) belonging to Andy Warhol. In a group of 30 men and women, all the men were dressed in drag.  What broke the ice was my introduction of the conservation rules that included not touching the objects. A voice from the back of the group assured me they would not try on any of the clothes in the exhibition!"

Janice Dunlop, Art Gallery of Ontario


"Our Outreach Programs have been our most successful part of the Education Division for 15 years. The docents started three programs. Moveable Museum docents teach in the classroom, Special Education docents teach at hospitals, mental health institutions, etc. and Do You Remember docents teach at retirement facilities.  Because of the success, the Education Staff received grants to enlarge these programs."


Carole Kramer, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Docent Handbook author

Co-Chair of the 1995 Los Angeles Symposium

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