Re: Blended docent programs?

 
From: "Elizabeth Andres eandres@nhm.org [talk at museum-ed.org]" <talk@museum-ed.org>
Subject: Re: Blended docent programs?
Date: February 25th 2021
Hello - Interesting discussion thread. At our museum we have docents of all ages (ranging from 17-92). We do not distinguish among the docents in terms of age, but use the criteria of commitment, skill, and content expertise. Our interpretive volunteers are all in the same "bucket," so to speak, with people achieving docent-in-training and docent status as they get deeper into the museum's content and develop their interpretive skills. All of them are doing the same kind of informal interpretation with museum visitors, but are able to interpret in different exhibit halls depending on their status along that spectrum of skills growth.

Rather than "blended," we consider our docent experience to be "deconstructed." We don't ask for a huge training commitment up front, but instead offer modular training opportunities throughout the year. New volunteers start as "Interpretive Volunteers," and then opt into trainings that fit their interests & schedule. Once they've completed a certain number of trainings + service hours, we consider them "Docents-in-Training" and eventually "Docents." This has enabled a much wider range of volunteers to become docents if that's of interest to them, but we don't require them to necessarily work toward that goal. 

While there are certainly benefits to having a more focused youth program, there are also benefits to throwing everyone in together ("blending"). Each of our daily volunteer shifts, and all of our training courses, include a variety of volunteers & docents, of all ages, mixed together. They are able to learn from one another (in both directions), and it's really lovely seeing connections, teamwork, and friendships forming among all ages.

We do have student-aged volunteers who are only available to volunteer for a summer or a semester (for example), and they don't have the option to become docents because for us the term "docent" reflects a certain level of skill, expertise, and time commitment. We also have many student-aged volunteers who volunteer year-round, and are able to achieve all the steps necessary to become full-fledged docents, which means a lot to them, and to us!

Always happy to discuss in more detail!

Best wishes,
Liz

--
Liz Andres

Program Manager, Volunteer Programs | Education, Exhibitions & Programs

La Brea Tar Pits & Museum | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

p 213.763.3534

Inspiring wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.

Pronouns: she/her/hers


On Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 10:00 AM Sean Mobley SMobley@museumofflight.org [talk at museum-ed.org] <talk@museum-ed.org> wrote:

Candie,

 

I don’t have experience with a “blended” program, but I’m intrigued by this question. You seem to be presenting this an either/or. People are either student docents or adult docents. Why are these exclusive? Aren’t they all docents? Are there differences in training or expectations? If so, why do they need to have the same title? At our museum we have volunteers filling over a dozen different positions, including several who are public-facing. Docents are tourguides of the entire museum. Ambassadors create a welcoming atmosphere and answer questions about what’s around them. We have other volunteers who might be experts or have personal experience with specific artifacts on display and help with gallery interpretation, but they aren’t Docents as they focus on specific topics rather than the entire Museum. We have some High School students who learn how to put on tours, but they’re Museum Apprentices. And the whole thing is moot, because visitors think everyone’s a staff member anyway!

 

Sean

 

Sean Mobley, (He/Him/His) | Volunteer Coordinator
The Museum of Flight
9404 East Marginal Way S
Seattle, WA 98108
Work: +1 (206) 768-7151
www.museumofflight.org

 

From: talk@museum-ed.org [mailto:talk@museum-ed.org]
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2021 8:08 AM
To: talk at museum-ed.org <talk@museum-ed.org>
Subject: [talk] Blended docent programs?

 

[CAUTION] This email originated from outside of the organization. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognize the sender and know the content is safe.

 

Hello all –

 

I’m writing from the Chazen Museum of Art at UW-Madison. I’m wondering if any of you manage blended docent programs? We’re in the early stages of developing a student docent program, but we have also a longstanding docent program of volunteers who are our greatest ambassadors of the Museum. If your museum has both student and adult docents (for lack of a better descriptor), what does the relationship between the two look like? Alternately, have any of you replaced the “traditional” docent program with a student docent program? I realize this is a huge ASK at an incredibly busy time, but if either scenario applies to your institution, I’d love to chat with you to learn more!

 

Thank you in advance!

Candie Waterloo, Curator of Education

Chazen Museum of Art

cwaterloo@chazen.wisc.edu

 

 


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