Training Docents

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July 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm #1176


We would like to begin a program to train volunteers for our museum –but frankly, don’t know where to start.  Any ideas or guidance?

Thanks, Mary Graddick, Tallahassee Auto Museum

July 7, 2013 at 4:25 pm #1177


Hi Mary,
Forgive me if this is too basic, but I thought I would start with basics to get the discussion started.  If you haven’t already, I might suggest putting together a Volunteer/Docent guide, providing   information about the museum, hours, admission fees, group rates etc., how the museum was founded, how the museum is funded, museum membership information, the museum’s mission statement, names of the administration etc.  We have volunteer staff we call Collection Monitors, and we also have trained Docents who conduct large and small group tours.  I notice our Docents tend to receive a wide variety of questions from guests, not just about the exhibits, so they are well schooled on the background of the museum.  A simple “Frequently Asked Questions” page is a good idea too.  You might consider providing a “code of conduct” as well since museum volunteers interact with the public and are our ambassadors representing the museum to our guests.  As your docents become more experienced, solicit their help to assist you update content based upon guest comments and frequent questions they receive.   

Our volunteer coordinator schedules training meetings, and has included guest speakers, many have been museum staff such as our collection manager, our event sales manager, exhibits, membership, and  facilities manager, also she conducted safety training etc.  Also provide information about the exhibits. Docents may wish to do their own research, but you may wish to provide the format and content guidelines.  Our Docents also tailor tour their content to the audience, for example, elementary school students vs. all ages group,  a group of members from car club or a group from a retirement community. 

 As your exhibits rotate in and out, devise a way to update docents in advance or at the start of their shift of museum updates or events happening for the day.  I hope this helps.
Renee Crist, LeMay-America’s Car Museum

July 10, 2013 at 11:23 pm #1181


We have a thriving docent program at the California Automobile Museum, with about 150 active docents who rotate through on a schedule.  We conduct an extensive training that’s 21 weeks long and has an accompanying training manual that’s about 3 inches thick!  Though the training and manual have evolved over a couple decades, we do have some policies and guidelines you might find interesting, and the best part is, these have all been created and implemented by our Docent Council, a group of volunteers who oversee the CAM Docent Corps so staff doesn’t have to do it!  I’m going to try using the attachment feature to upload a document or two, so hopefully it works!  I’m attaching them in Word format rather than PDF so they are editable if anyone wants to modify and use it.

Karen McClaflin, California Automobile Museum

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July 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm #1196


Thanks for all your input!


Mary, Tallahassee Auto Museum

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