RE: Docent Transitions

 
From: "Danielle Trynoski [email protected] [talk at museum-ed.org]" <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Docent Transitions
Date: June 12th 2019

Hi Candie,

 

We have a robust docent program (120-130 active docents) with its own council, annual tour quotas, 8-month training program, and docent categories. This program was created in 1987 so it also has some older participants and those who struggle with change. For docents who no longer tour and typically just attend meetings, we have a Retired Docent category. They are still required to pay our annual $20 Docent/Volunteer membership however are no longer actively leading tours. The benefits include a 10% discount in our museum store, docent newsletter, invitations to social events, and the option to come back during busy seasons as a Tour Assist if desired. The Retired Docent category is only open to docents serving for two years or more. For docents who want to leave the program entirely or leave before the two-year mark, we record them in our database as Former Docents to differentiate from the Retired Docents. Former are kept on general mailing lists for membership, programming, appeals, etc. however do not get the benefits of a Retired Docent, and cannot enroll in the $20 membership level.

 

Another method to phase out older docents who are struggling to physically perform our standard 75-minute tour is a shift to a recently created Volunteer Greeter position. These volunteers answer questions about changing exhibition gallery, the National Historic Landmark where we are based, and tourist information. They are different from our Front Desk Volunteers who handle cash and make tour reservations, whereas the Volunteer Greeter is expected to know more historical knowledge and address visitor questions. Of course there’s some overlap in knowledge, but this different position title keeps older docents in an interpretive role.

 

Hope that helps!

 

Danielle Trynoski

Director of Marketing and Development

www.MissionInnMuseum.org/fmcaa

Ph: 951.788.9556

[email protected]

 

From: [email protected] <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 8:19 AM
To: talk at museum-ed.org <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: [talk] Docent Transitions

 

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:

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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