History of the NDSC

Docents at the Indianapolis Museum of Art organized the first nationwide meeting of docents in 1981. A second symposium was held in 1983 at the Milwaukee Art Museum and a third in1985 at the Oakland Museum. At this time it was believed necessary that a permanent advisory board be established to ensure continuation of the symposium which, since then has been held every other year at a museum in the United States or Canada.

In 1988 bylaws were drafted and the National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) was born. The NDSC was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the State of California and Federal tax-exempt status was obtained.  A permanent mailing address was established. The duties of the NDSC include developing a current list of institutions with docent programs, selecting symposium sites, advising and assisting host committees, and maintaining the website.

The NDSC is composed of two regional directors for each of the six American Alliance of Museums regions, as well as the two Canadian regions. Officers of the NDSC, co-chairs of the current, past and future symposia who are docents at the hosting museum, and selected advisors also serve as directors.  The NDSC directors serve on the Council at their own expense.  The NDSC meets annually at the symposium site.

A kaleidoscope was chosen by the Toledo Museum of Art as the symbol of its 1987 Symposium and then adopted as the logo for the National Docent Symposium Council.

The Docent Handbook, edited by former directors Carole Kramer and Helga Keller, was published by the NDSC in 2002.  More than 8000 copies have been sold.  It is a valuable resource which is used by many museums in their training program.  Individual copies have been sold all over the world.

In 1998 the NDSC decided to establish a website. Then a director, Anne Eller, obtained the domain www.docents.net. She worked with the web designer and allowed the NDSC to use this domain.  The NDSC website went on-line in 2001.  Faced with the rapidly increasing connectivity of the docent world through electronic media, in 2010 the NDSC decided to re-design its website to better meet the needs of today’s docents.  A more comprehensive domain name was obtained - www.nationaldocents.org – and is owned by the NDSC.  This website site went on-line during the 2011 St. Louis symposium and became a true interactive forum for communication and exchange of ideas among docents.

In 2003, a scholarship fund was set up in honor of Carole and Eugene Kramer, who were instrumental in establishing the NDSC. Profits from sales of the handbook have enabled the NDSC to add to this fund. Each symposium year Kramer/NDSC Educational Grants, in the amount of the symposium registration fee and including a copy of The Docent Handbook, have been awarded to symposium attendees.

The National Docent Symposium Council is eager to meet your needs.  Please contact us at info@nationaldocents.org to tell us what we can do for you. 


Sign Up to Stay Informed
Keep up to date about the exciting plans for the next docent symposium.

Join our mailing list!


August 30th is the last day to register with a $50 US discount.

For the NDS 2017 Montreal Symposium
At www.nds2017.com (or click here)

Please consult our website and make your choice of the Breakout sessions, Off- site workshops and Pre-Symposium tours before beginning the registration process.

Rendez-vous à Montréal !



Dinners for non-registered accompanying persons

We are happy to announce that non- registered persons accompanying delegates will have the possibility of attending two of our evening dinners. However space is limited. Please see our website for details at www.nds2017.com


Social walk/run for NDS Symposium Delegates


The Sheraton Centre will host a special edition for the NDS guests in the morning (7:00am-8:00am) on October 12th and October 13th. See our website for details www.nds2017.com under What’s new.


La Balade Pour La Paix: An Open-Air Museum


A public art exhibition along one kilometre of Sherbrooke Street West created by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for Montreal’s 375th anniversary.
The route features 67 stations (30 sculptures and 42 photographs) by Canadian and international artists. It is lined with the flags of the close to 200 member countries of the United Nations, along with those of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories.
See www.375mtl.com/en


October 12 - 15, 2017
Almost Here!


Coming to Montreal? Find out what you need.

1.  Valid passport expiring more than 6 months after the travel date

2.  Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA): exemptions include U.S. citizens, travellers with a valid Canadian visa and Canadian citizens.  Please refer to the Government of Canada site for more information www.cic.gc.ca