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Personal Development: NDSC, 2017 NDS Montreal and YOU

My theme for the spring of 2017 is personal development and YOU.

Personal development is the process of achieving and expanding your full potential. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you have the power to experience and expand your personal development. Whether you are improving your strengths, reducing your liabilities, or expanding what you are capable of, personal development is a path.

NDSC (the Council) Mission and YOU:

The mission of the National Docent Symposium Council is to promote continuous improvement in docent practice by facilitating communication and collaborative interaction among U.S. and Canadian volunteer docents/guides. This is accomplished through biennial symposia, sales of The Docent Handbook and with our interactive website

The NDSC consists of 30+ volunteer docents/guides from across the US and Canada who represent docents/guides from a wide variety of cultural institutions and museums. Our members are dedicated team players, who actively support our mission statement and the NDS. Our strong suit is the broad base of leadership, experience and knowledge that 30+ people bring to the table.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) Docent Council celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016 with many events and accolades. Our organization would like to share our experience with other docent organizations who may want to collaborate with their institution to celebrate a significant milestone.

Docents formed a 50th Anniversary committee and planned special events to acknowledge and publicize this historic event.

* A Golden Jubilee Handbook that included the history of the Docent Council, important Milestones over the years, docent pictures, and images of art works that docents contributed to.

Jen Brown (Oleniczak) is the founder of The Engaging Educator, a NYC-based organization that specializes in improv-based workshops and professional development for educators. Docents at The Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC had a chance to experience her engagement techniques during a recent training session.

We may think of improv as freewheeling comedy or situations where anything goes, but Jen assures us that it is anything but. Improv requires strong listening skills and concern for others.
For improv to work as intended, those involved must support each other so that everyone participating is successful. You can help your visitors feel comfortable by encouraging and supporting their contributions to the tour conversation.

Tales from the Museum

Many museums have works in their collections that are accompanied by an interesting story or unusual circumstance. Share your museum's tale by sending an article to Kristen Keirsey:  

Docents at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC enjoy sharing a painting with two signatures, a plaque giving artist attribution and wall text that explains how a museum mystery was solved.

Sanford Robinson Gifford and Jasper Francis Cropsey are familiar names among Hudson River School painters. These artists and their contemporaries painted the scenery along the river in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic region in the mid to late 19th century. The painters shared a quality in their work that was later termed Luminism to describe their focus on light and atmosphere. They painted the same subject matter and often had similar elements of composition. It can be difficult for the untrained eye to tell the difference between the painters in some cases and, as the Mint's story goes, it was difficult for the professional eye as well.

To make a long story (the subject of entire exhibition) short, in 1945 the museum was loaned a painting attributed to Jasper Cropsey. The work was signed and dated 1871 but little else was known, including the exact title.

Nuit Blanche, an all-night arts festival originated in Nantes, France in 1984, and gradually spread to many cities in Europe. Typically, museums, private and public art galleries, and other cultural institutions are free to the public and open all night. The centre of the city is turned into a de facto art gallery with art shows, music, art, and film and dance performances.

On October 1, 2016, The Art Gallery of Ontario hosted 23,050 visitors between the hours of 6:58 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. on October 2. Many visitors were at the AGO for the first time. Says Melissa Smith, Coordinator, Gallery Guide Program and Adult Education Officer Program: "We were able to collect a lot of emails through a photo booth and requiring an email address to sign into our Wi-Fi. We have connected by sending emails about upcoming exhibitions and programs to encourage a repeat visit."

Commitment to the NDSC/NDS future

National Docent Symposium Council (NDSC) 2016 Annual Meeting

Thirty-three NDSC members met in picturesque Montreal, Canada, October 5-6, 2016 for our annual planning and business meeting. The NDSC is an unusual organization, comprised of volunteer docents/guides who live in various parts of the US and Canada, who meet once a year and conduct business primarily by email.

So what holds this group together?

Commonality: Our commonality is to maintain and build on a solid foundation for future symposia and other NDSC sponsored educational opportunities. We voluntarily accept the responsibilities and requirements for a four year NDSC term of service that makes continuity possible. We are committed to the NDSC/NDS future.

Challenge: Our challenge as an organization is to ensure that the NDSC/NDS remains relevant and viable. We set our goals and objectives with an eye and ear focused on the future, with special attention given to managing our financial and human resources. We are committed to the NDSC/NDS future.

Teamwork: Our members are dedicated team players. Our strong suit is the broad base of leadership, experience and knowledge that thirty-three people bring to the table. Identifying issues and problem solving must be streamlined by teamwork when you have two short days to manage the next year's work. We are committed to the NDSC/NDS future.

You'll find educational website links recommended by docents under the Resource menu tab. Docents who suggested the sites have found the information contained there to enhance their continuing art education. The sites may add to your art history knowledge or help you stay current on trends in the field. Events and personality profiles can be found as well.

As with Book and Movie Reviews, we hope you'll share the sites you've found to be of value. Send your recommendations to Public Relations Committee Chair Kristen Keirsey:


The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art saw a need in our city to reach out to preschool populations and through the help of the Smithsonian Early Childhood program, developed a plan to bring preschoolers to the museum. Our presentation describes object based learning, which is the basis of our program, and its value in the museum setting while offering opportunities to explore works of art in a gallery setting thus building critical thinking skills. Our long term goal is that these students and their families will view the museum as a resource for life-long learning. A detailed description of our early childhood program is included so it can be replicated in any type of museum. Click here for more information. 

The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science currently has 28 active Docents. We were in desperate need of increasing our numbers to meet the Museum's need to lead tours, and to assist at events.

Previous marketing to increase our numbers had very little success. However, this year we hosted a very successful Welcome Coffee! The marketing strategy was forceful. We utilized the local newspapers for the Upcoming Events section. Pictures of Docent activities were sent to the newspapers for their social page. Television appearances were scheduled with Docent officers to discuss the upcoming "Coffee" and the enjoyment you receive from volunteering at the Museum. Docent brochures were created and distributed to church and social groups.


Mary Peoples, Docent, Denver Art Museum and Mananitas Liaison.

One of the things that makes Denver special is its rich, diverse community - our Latino population alone makes up almost one-third of Denver residents. The Denver Art Museum is committed to making art accessible to all visitors and has developed a variety of programs that invite and serve the Latino community. We offer bilingual and Spanish language tours as well as other programs which celebrate Latino art and culture such as Día del Niño, the Celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, CelebrARTE, and Mañanitas.

Mañanitas celebrates the cultures of the Americas and exposes children and their parents to the museum collections and its family programs. Mañanitas is Spanish for the word "morning" and is also the name of the Spanish song sung at birthday parties - in other words, a fun morning event! Four times a year, all of the second through fifth graders from a school are invited to the museum for Mañanitas, a fun-filled morning of art-related activities. We encourage schools to invite as many parents as possible. 

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For the NDS 2017 Montreal Symposium
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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 !


October 12 - 15, 2017
Already less than one year away!

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