The Docent Council
Formed in 1968, the Wadsworth Atheneum’s Docent Council shares a passion for art, as well as the desire to engage and inform the public about art, the vast collection of the museum, and extraordinary dedication to excellence in teaching. Their service to the museum allows our visitors to experience infinite possibilities for learning, contemplation, and enjoyment.
What is a Docent?
A docent is a volunteer museum educator who engages visitors of all ages and backgrounds in an active discussion and exploration of works of art in the museum. Docents welcome thousands of visitors every year from communities in the surrounding area as well as countries around the world. Docents conduct tour experiences for preK to grade 12 students, college students, adults, and families in all collection areas and exhibitions through a variety of tour programs organized by the Education Department. Docents are valued as professional educators and are educated and evaluated accordingly.
Who is eligible to be a Docent?
Any adult who has an enthusiasm for art and the Wadsworth Atheneum, enjoys working with people of all ages and backgrounds, loves learning, has a desire to teach, and can meet the time commitment is a welcomed candidate. Prior art history and art studio knowledge and teaching experience are not required. The approximately 100 members of the Docent Council come from all walks of life.
How do I become a Docent?
Applicants must first be accepted as a Docent-in-Training. Docents-in-Training complete a rigorous two-semester course on art history and the museum’s collection as well as teaching and touring techniques for various museum audiences. The class meets weekly for three hours each session. Because of the volume of information covered in these sessions, few absences are allowed. Weekly assignments include readings and independent study and activity in the museum’s galleries.
Upon successful completion of the course, Docents-in-Training are then mentored by an experienced docent for about six months and join the Docents for ongoing training. They must undergo a final evaluation before graduation to full-fledged docent status and are expected to commit at least two years to being a docent. Every docent, regardless of years of experience, is evaluated by both peer and education staff evaluators regularly to foster continued growth and professional accomplishment.
To apply to the docent program, complete the Docent Application Form. Applications are accepted ongoing and kept on file. Applicants are then notified to confirm interest and for scheduling of interviews once the timing of the next class has been determined.
When is the next Docent-in-Training class?
Docent-in-Training classes usually run once every few years. The next Docent-in-Training class might begin in Fall 2013 or in 2014, meeting on a weekday evening. Applicants will be contacted for interviews once the dates of the class are determined.
What is the time commitment for Docents?
Every year Docents attend required training sessions to learn about exhibitions, collections, art history, and gallery teaching, two to three times a month from September through May. Docents may opt to attend training on Monday mornings or Tuesday evenings.
A “full-time” docent chooses a weekday and is assigned up to two tours on that day, weekly, mid-September to mid-June. A docent who works 20 hours or more outside the home is a “part-time” docent, committing to 24 tours per year, year-round, opting to be either a weekday or weekend/evening docent.
What’s the cost?
If admitted into the program, there is no tuition fee for the Docent-in-Training course. Several textbooks are required to purchase. All Docents and Docents-in-Training are required to pay annual dues to the Wadsworth Atheneum Docent Council. Additionally, they must maintain an active membership to the museum.
Are there other activities of the Docent Council?
The Docent Council is governed by an active board which works collaboratively with the Education Department. Both formal and informal social events are important. Docent trips are organized for visits to art museums in the surrounding area and further afar for those docents who wish to experience other art collections with their colleagues. The docents also produce the Dialogue, an educational newsletter, written by and for Wadsworth Atheneum docents. In addition, state and national docent symposia provide an opportunity to further touring skills and meet colleagues from other museums.
Send an email to Angela Parker, Docent and Tour Programs Manager.