Birmingham Museum of Art docents play a key role in fulfilling the Museum’s commitment to the community. Docents are trained to facilitate tours of Museum galleries that provide art experiences for visitors of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. About 80% of docent-led tours at the BMA are for children and students. Docents share their deep passion for art, culture, and learning to help all Museum visitors connect with objects and experience the magic of art.
Docents derive personal satisfaction from helping Museum visitors to understand and to appreciate art and its importance to culture and values. Docents benefit by learning from top curators, educators, scholars, and other docents. They gain access to special docent-only gallery talks, Museum programs, and behind-the-scenes tours. Docents meet interesting people, make new friends, contribute to the education of children, and become part of the docent community.
The next docent training cycle will begin in late summer/early fall 2015. Check back in spring 2015 for more information about the application process.
Docent program mission statement
To advance the mission of the Museum by facilitating tours that engage visitors and provide a positive, meaningful, and relevant experience with art.
Docent program vision statement
To create meaningful experiences for each Museum visitor that allow them to become positively transformed by the power of art.
Docent program values
- Collaboration: We work in partnership to support each other and the docent program.
- Enjoyment: We facilitate fun and positive experiences with art.
- Flexibility: We are open to new ideas and the possibility of seeing things in new ways.
- Learning: We invest continuously in our own learning and development. We help our visitors learn about life through the Museum’s works of art.
- Professionalism: We present ourselves in a positive manner and act with integrity.
- Respect: We treat each other, our visitors, and our diverse constituency with respect.
By Mary Hubbard, Class of 2011
From my viewpoint, docent training has been about three things: first, art; second, people; and third, the puzzle of how to bring those two together in an engaging and enriching way. Of course, art has been the essential starting point of our learning enterprise, but even those of us who were accepted into the docent program (and already knew the Museum owned many beautiful works) didn’t realize how vast the permanent collection actually is. We were astounded to learn than only about 10% of what the Museum owns is ever on display at any one time. The treasure trove is huge, and we’ve had an exhilarating time exploring parts of it.
In addition, we’ve learned that without museum-goers, works of art are inert objects displayed in a handsome building. Thankfully, the Education Department staff has helped us “see” many pieces with fresh eyes. They’ve helped us acquire a kind of double-vision: the full-bodied, well-informed X-ray vision that curators have (and have willingly shared with us), and the deer-in-the-headlights perspective that many visitors can have (and that most of us did have when we entered a museum for the first time). Slowly but surely, we’re learning how to navigate between the two. It isn’t that we’ll ever know it all (we won’t ever be as knowledgeable as the curators, that’s for sure); but with persistence, we can learn how to be co-adventurers with the Museum’s visitors, trading roles as both students and teachers along the way. And if we do our job well, everyone will enjoy the experience.
Among the multiple benefits of joining the docent program has been welcoming new people into our lives – the visitors we’ve observed and learned from, the fellow docents we’ve come to know and respect, the staff who’ve inspired and trained us. Unlike some groups, we hail from many different backgrounds, share different faiths, align with different political parties, inhabit different walks of life. In any other circumstance, we would never meet. What has brought us together is that we’re all interested in art, and we believe that it has much to teach us – about ourselves and others. I don’t think any of us would trade being a docent for any other experience.