Thursday, October 1, 2015

Museum Docent 101

Visitor Services/Docent

In order to provide a first rate museum experience for our visitors, it is important to understand what museums are, why people come to museums, and how people learn in the museum, and interact with exhibits. It is our goal to provide the highest level of customer service to our community and visitors, while maintaining professional museum standards. It is the responsibility of all staff and volunteers to answer visitors’ questions, and ensure that the public’s experience is positive, while protecting the integrity of our mission.

One important step in sharing our local history is to know our local history! In order to educate others, you must first educate yourself. For our staff who spend the majority of their time in the exhibit galleries and are giving tours, we use the term docent.

Visitor Service means to assist with all aspects including reception desk, registration for public programs, visitor statistics, patrolling galleries, and assisting with shop sales and inventory.

What are Museums?

Museums preserve objects of the past and are held in the public trust. “Museums make their unique contribution to the public by collecting, preserving, and interpreting the things of this world.” American Association of Museums

Why Do People Visit Museums?

  • The Explorer: Needs to satisfy personal curiosity.
  • The Facilitator: Wishes to engage in a meaningful social experience with someone in an educationally supportive environment.
  • The Experience seeker: Aspires to be exposed to the things and ideas that exemplify what is best and intellectually most important within a culture or community.
  • The Professional/Hobbyist: Desires to further specific intellectual needs in a setting with a specific subject matter focus.
  • The Recharger: Yearns to physically, emotionally, and intellectually recharge in a beautiful and refreshing environment.
 Getting to Know your Visitor

  • You must decide the depth of information you will convey.
  • We want our visitors to leave with a positive and memorable experience.
  • Figure out where the visitor is from.
  • Many locals here are still unaware of the battle taking place.
  • People always seem to think that the Civil War is primitive.
  • Figure out how to connect them to 150 years ago.
 Ways People Learn In Museums

  • Visual: These learners tend to think in pictures and need to create vivid mental images to retain information.
  • Verbal: These learners have highly developed auditory skills and are generally elegant speakers. They think in words rather than pictures.
  • Logical: These learners think conceptually in logical and numerical patterns, making connections between pieces of information.
  • Bodily: These learners express themselves through movement. They have a good sense of balance and eye-hand coordination.
  • Musical: These musically inclined learners think in sounds, rhythms and patterns. They immediately respond to music either appreciating or criticizing what they hear.
  • Interpersonal: These learners try to see things from other people's point of view in order to understand how they think and feel. They often have an uncanny ability to sense feelings, intentions and motivations.
  • Intrapersonal: These learners try to understand their inner feelings, dreams, relationships with others, and strengths and weaknesses.
 Leading By Example

As a visitor services attendant, never cuss, smoke, eat, or drink in front of the visitor. As patrons enter the museum, please stand and welcome them and introduce yourself. Let the visitor know, if they have any questions, you’re more than happy to answer them. Always, be truthful. If you do not know the answer, don’t make things up. It’s ok to tell people that you do not know the answer, but you will find out the answer after research. 

Avoid the neo-Confederate ideology and politics during the conversation. If the conversation is getting uncomfortable, you can ask the visitor to leave or simply ask the visitor to stay on track with the actual battle itself, giving no opinion.

Be ready to give a tour of the museum if people ask. This means that you should do some research on the objects that are displayed. Remember, in order to educate the public, you must first educate yourself. We have many resources that you can use.  If you don’t see a resource you are looking for, ask, we may have it in our library. Remember, you are the ambassador of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park & Museum, as well as Washington Township.

Compliance for those Breaking the Rules

  • Empathy is understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself, or can put yourself in their shoes.
  • Sympathy is acknowledging another person's emotional hardships, and providing comfort and assurance.
 Never say you are sorry, unless you made the mistake.  There is no need to apologize for something that is out of your control.

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