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Docents, Interpreters, and Interns:. Relying on Volunteerism. What is a docent?. Word “docent” has the Latin root, meaning “to teach,” just as curator is derived from “curate” – both job titles borrowed from the Catholic Church. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


Docents, Interpreters, and Interns: Relying on Volunteerism

Docents, Interpreters, and Interns:Relying on Volunteerism

What is a docent?Word docent has the Latin root, meaning to teach, just as curator is derived from curate both job titles borrowed from the Catholic Church.Possible connection with early envisioning of the art museum as a quasi-sacred space of uplift and improvementWhat is the job of a docent?Unpaid volunteerLeads tour groups through museum exhibitionsAlso called interpreters, gallery instructors, tour guides, or gallery guidesEach year, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren and other visitors are guided by docents

Early Education DepartmentsEarly docents set the foundation in todays art museums for education departmentsCurrently docents are primarily women, with numbers in the thousands, especially in art museums

Early History of Docents in American Art Museums: 1890-1930The Museum of Fine Arts, with its origins in 1807 as a gentlemens reading club, the Boston Athenaeum, introduced the first docents, 1890-1930Benjamin Ives Gilman (Secretary and Trustee for the MFA,1851-1933) conceived of docents as gallery guides. He and a group of men, the first officers of the museum, provided docent services in the earliest yearsDocents representative of an altruistic, hospitable form of museum outreach that shaped the early practice of docentryDemographics of the art museum audience changedSocial and educational opportunities for American women and children changedDefinition and role of a docent changedContinue Early DocentsIn the first decades, docents tasks were carried out by professional men (1890-1910) but by 1930 had become the volunteer work of middle class womenGender is important issue to consider when thinking about docentsPost Civil War America unstable, advent of progressivism as an organized political force in the 1890s, which fueled the expanding educational efforts of the MFA (docents)

Continue Early Docents1880: the Met offers classes for school teachers1892: J. Randall Coolidge (trustee, MFA) proposes that the museum begin using expert guides1895: National Education Association called upon art museums to be more helpful in public instruction1901: Teachers petition the MFA. 1904, official beginning of public lectures, 1908, free gallery talks1910: Womens Educational and Industrial Union publishes a leaflet describing docents and suggesting docentry as a new profession for college educated women1912: Huger Elliot becomes Supervisor of Educational Work at the MFAGilman wrote about docents and how they should teach, saying that it is more important to inspire a new visitor to the museum than to inform about history or art making

Continue Early Docents1908: Florence Nightingale Levy contributes to publication, The Educational Work of the Museum, in a chapter on public art educationEarly pairing of docents and Progressives (larger historical context of progressive advocacy for educational ideals)1915: first large scale conference of museum instructors, only eight years after MFA begins practice

Continue Early Docents: ChildrenCharles W. Eliot (President of Harvard University, 1869-1909) and the Committee for the Utilization of the Museum by Schools and Colleges offer teachers and students free admission, new era of closer relationships between schools and childrenBenjamin Ives Gilman decries trend: educational racket attempting to turn children into habitues of the museumBy 1915 young audiences at MFA had grown to nearly 9,000 children By 1927 the MFA begins to look like it does today

Continue Early Docents: Role of Women By early 1900s middle class women have smaller families, more servants and new labor-saving appliancesSeek new areas of expertise that bring about personal changes in their individual social status, collective changes in their local communities, and eventually, collective enfranchisement through national voting rightsSocial mobility of a young American democratic society (unlike Europe) Many encumbrances hinder a womans full participation in public life Domestic reformers were conservative activists who tried to improve womens lives without upsetting the status quo.1868: First womens club in NYC; New England Womens Club in Boston Become important organizational structures which lead to significant progressive reforms. Women gain many skills from participation in these clubs, including the ability to become docents teaching in American Art Museums1870s new womens colleges offer women education beyond high school, including Smith, Wellesley, Simmons, and Radcliffe. These lead to associations with Museums. Docents become the New profession for college-bred women.Continue Early DocentFrom 1907-1920 docent hired, paid staff of museum; status changes as they become administrators of the museums department of educationA separation drawn between supervisor and docent is pivotal1931 Marion Doane is supervisor of Educational Work, first woman in charge of education at the MFAWomens clubs provide educated, unpaid, volunteer docent work to art museumsWomen (upper and middle class) restricted from most forms of employment, especially if marriedTeaching children acceptable for single womenMFAs audience numbers increase, docents seen as the perfect solutionDocents figure prominently in the modern origins of museum educationVolunteerism TodayWho volunteers and why?Who do we want for volunteers in the future? How do we build positive, long-term relationships with our volunteers? What administrative structures will we need to support their effectiveness (which turns out to be OUR effectiveness)?

Contemporary Scene for Docents, Volunteers and Interns65.4 million adults volunteered a median of 50 hours from 2004-2005Largest number of volunteers come from 35-44 age bracketWomen are more likely to volunteer than menTotal value for volunteer time in 2005 is estimated at $280 billion, based on the hourly rate of $18.04 established by Independent Sector (U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)Baby boomers began turning 60 in 2006 and 77 million are approaching retirement Other end of the spectrum are teens, half of whom donate their time

Canadas Code for Volunteer InvolvementBoard and senior management show strong support for volunteersClear policies and procedures provide a frameworkProfessional volunteer program manager in placeStaff and management welcome volunteers who are treated as valuable and integral members of the teamMeaningful volunteer assignmentsRecruitment reaches out to diverse sourcesClear and consistent screening processOrientation and training is in placeVolunteers have appropriate support and supervision with opportunities to receive and give feedbackVolunteer contributions are regularly acknowledgedTeen Volunteers30 % of students in grades 6-12 volunteer more than 80 hours a year!93 % anticipate volunteering as adults38% say that volunteering provides an opportunity to combine interests and talents32% believe the primary purpose of volunteering is to be exposed to new experiences and new people44% find volunteering highly rewarding

(USA Weekend Teens and Volunteering Survey, 2005) Junior Docents Take Classmates on Museum Tour

Major phases in volunteerism within a museum1). Recruitment and interviewing: where do you find your docents, how do you interview them, how do you find out if they are trustworthy or talented?

2) Training program: what are the elements of your training? Do you teach them content? Do they shadow others? What is essential to know or master before they are doing the work?

3) Actual teaching and supervision: how do you supervise volunteers while they are teaching? What happens when they are not effective, or good teachers? What policies and procedures do you have in place for evaluation, and moving an ineffective volunteer on to another job, or out of the organization?

4) On going training: What kind of on-going education/training would you ideally give your docents? Lecture based? Museum field trips? Access to curator talks? Regular meetings? How do you recognize/thank your docent? What perks do you offer the volunteer?