The word “docent” derives from the Latin word docere meaning “to teach.” Docents have been a vital link between the history and collections of American museums and historic sites for over 100 years. In the United States, the word is often used to identify trained volunteer educators in zoos, national parks, museums, and other cultural institutions.
Docents are volunteer teachers and museum ambassadors and are the faces of the museums for groups that visit each day. By sharing what they know about a cultural institution and its history, docents help visitors get the most out of the time they spend at an institution. Docent training at the DuSable Museum of African American History is an intensive program designed to provide volunteer educators with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to lead interpretive tours at the museum.
The Docent Training Course is a collaboration between the DuSable Museum of African American History (DSM) and the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC). It is an interdisciplinary course that provides students with an intellectual foundation for understanding and critically assessing the history and experiences of persons of African descent in America and across the African Diaspora. The course was designed for adults who are interested in African American history, art, and culture, especially as it pertains to the permanent and traveling exhibits and collections of the DSM and SSCAC.
Memberships and Professional Development
On the national level, once the docent trainees have completed the required course and received their certificates of completion, they automatically become eligible for membership in the American Association of Museum Volunteers (AAMV), the only national association representing over 1,000,000 volunteers in all categories of museums and cultural institutions. There are also opportunities to network with local docent groups for professional development.
Docents are expected to commit to volunteering for at least two years after completion of training.