A docent is a person who leads guided tours at an art gallery, garden, museum, zoo or other venue where the visitors would benefit from having someone help them understand and appreciate what they viewing. Other docents may provide tours of battle fields, architecture or city historical districts. While most docents are volunteers, there may be compensated positions in some settings.
You may already have sufficient knowledge to perform as a competent docent or you may need to study. Most docents find that they continue to grow in knowledge and perspective from the questions and comments of visitors. One of the most interesting docents I have met was at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. He had been a successful business person and Trustee of the Museum for many years and “retired” to be a docent. His love and enthusiasm for the museum’s collections just radiated from him and he noted that he learned something everyday, frequently from the many international visitors to the museum.
If being a docent sounds interesting, you might take a tour with a docent yourself and focus on what they do. After the tour see if the docent could spend a few minutes talking about being a docent, what he or she likes and doesn’t like about it, how he or she became one and any advice he or she might have for someone who is thinking about entering the field.
Visit the websites of museums, zoos, gardens and galleries near you to learn about their docent opportunities. Here are some examples from the Saint Louis Zoo, the Smithsonian and the Huntington Museum of Art.
R. Kevin Price
© 2008-2013 R.K. Price