Re: Docent Transitions

 
From: "Jill Silos-Rooney [email protected] [talk at museum-ed.org]" <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Docent Transitions
Date: June 11th 2019
Oh, the ever-present docent predicament. They’re so wonderful, and so necessary, but some can be very resistant to change. I remember dealing with some docents who were so angry over really necessary changes that they forced a brand-new, dynamic, and qualified president to resign.

One tactic I’ve successfully used is to co-opt them as experts. Flattery gets you everywhere, especially with volunteers who often feel unappreciated and so assert power wherever they can. One way to do this is to hold a meeting-including a virtual meeting option—in which I’ve something like:

“Docents like you are often the most valuable team members at our site/museum/archive because you often deal with the public much more often than administration. As we all know, institutions like ours are under threat from new technology, so we would like to think about moving toward ways to create more interactive uses of museum space. You’re the experts here; we need your knowledge. I’ve got a questionnaire here in which I’d like you to share some of your perceptions about how our visitors already interact with our site, with each other, and with staff. With all your years of experience and knowledge, I’m sure you’ve got some significant insight on this. We can then use this as a building block from which to brainstorm some dynamic and innovative programs.”

Then you can break them up into project teams, etc. I would add something along the lines of: “Finally, as people’s schedules change, as seasonal needs change, we’d like to come up with some more ways to keep people involved even when there may not be opportunities to be onsite. If we can’t have you here as much as we’d like, we still value and need your expertise.” 

This can be an easy way to transition docents off-site, not to mention allow older, less-or non-mobile docents and community residents to participate in museum activities. One example: Sponsor a moderated-chatroom scavenger hunt that uses the National Archives or other archives around the world to find items connected to your own site. 

The online world offers enormous opportunities to keep docents feeling included and valuable, even while you may have to make hard decisions about some docents. 

Thanks,
Jill


Sent from my iPhone

On Jun 11, 2019, at 10:43 AM, Candie Waterloo [email protected] [talk at museum-ed.org] <[email protected]> wrote:

Docent Transitions

Hello all -


I am in the process - as I'm sure many of you are - of reforming my docent program. I inherited the program from a predecessor who had been at the institution for 41 years, which means that I also inherited a lot of history and some docents who have been around just as long. As I'm at an academic museum, many in my group have been trained as "art historians", and I am shifting us towards a more visitor-centric pedagogy.


I am wondering if any of you can shed light/insights to the following concerns and/or best practices (if you implemented such changes at your respective institutions)


  1. Seasonal docents - do you have docents who only tour/attend meetings seasonally? If so, how do you justify this compared to docents who tour/participate all year long?
  2. Docent tenures - do you have limits on how long one can be a docent at your Museum? If so, what is the criteria for making this decision?
  3. Phasing out docents - I have many docents who no longer tour, but still attend meetings. This is leftover from my predecessor who was trying to find a way to keep them engaged with the Museum. My concern is that these docents are actually interfering with my docent training as there are too many of them and it disrupts the numbers - and my ability to good group work. Have you had to phase out docents? If so, what was your criteria? How was this managed?


I appreciate any advice and thank you in advance!



Best,

Candie Waterloo, Curator of Education

Chazen Museum of Art

800 University Avenue

Madison, WI 53706

E: [email protected] / P: (608) 263-4421




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