Palmer Museum of Art Program Guidelines

Docents assist with the implementation of the museum’s educational programming as formulated by the museum educator.

Palmer Museum docents facilitate personal interaction, education, and enrichment between museum visitors and artwork. They develop expertise through ongoing training, research, and continuing education.

Docents provide volunteer educational services for the Palmer Museum education department as well as Penn State and serve as ambassadors to the public. They conduct tours of the permanent collection, special exhibitions, and the architecture of the museum to visitors of all ages. As representatives of the Palmer Museum, Docents are expected to project a positive image of the museum and its collections.

The ability to communicate effectively with others; a warm and friendly attitude; the ability to commit to the time and effort required; a formal education in an art-related area, experience in art production, or a sincere interest in art history and art education.


Docent training for candidates is held on Monday mornings in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium beginning in September and ending in December. Training consists of in-depth discussion of the permanent collection and architectural aspects of the building, tour techniques, communication methods, age-appropriate concepts for touring, and questioning strategies. Texts for the class include a notebook with relevant articles and information as well as Penn State and Palmer Museum publications.

Active docents are provided with training for special exhibitions and continuing education sessions throughout the academic year.

All docents are required to be members of the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art. All volunteers must adhere to the Museum’s mission and policies. An application for membership is available from the Museum Educator.

Candidates: Docent candidates submit an application, audit an introductory art history course, present practice tours, are mentored by an active docent, and observe at least three tours by other docents. Candidates are strongly encouraged to attended general meetings of the docents. Upon successful completion of all training requirements, candidates become active docents. Candidates who do not successfully complete the course have the option to repeat it the next time it is offered.

Active Docents: An active docent has satisfactorily completed the formal Docent training program set forth by the Museum Educator. Active docents contribute to the Museum on an annual basis by guiding tours, giving gallery talks, assisting with educational programs, conducting research, or serving as an officer or committee member of the Docents. She/he is expected to attend as regularly as possible the general meetings of the Docents, especially those that are followed by training relevant to newly-installed exhibitions. Active docents are encouraged to sit in on University courses with the permission of the instructor and notification of the Museum Educator. They are expected to continuously develop and refine their presentation skills.

* Special dispensation is available for docents who, although still active in the program, cannot actively tour.

Emeritus Docents: Docents who request this honorary status do not actively tour but are invited to attend general meetings, trips, and celebrations. Eligibility for emeritus status includes a five-year period of service to the Docent program.

The general meetings of the Docents are scheduled by the Museum Educator and are usually held twice each month during the academic year, excluding holidays. The annual meeting is the last meeting of the academic year; special meetings are called by the Head Docent as necessary.

Executive Committee
The docent executive committee is comprised of the Head Docent, Secretary, Historian / Librarian, Record Keeper, and Social Correspondent. Members of this committee are elected for a one-year term and may be re-elected. Meetings are called at the discretion of the Head Docent.

Nominating Committee
The nominating committee consists of the Head Docent, past Head Docent, two docents appointed by the Head Docent, and the Museum Educator. The committee is appointed in January every year, prepares and distributes an interest survey to active Docents, and from it creates a slate of nominees. The slate is presented at the first Docent meeting in April. The Docents elect officers as presented by the Nominating Committee at the annual meeting. These officers take office immediately.

Special Committees

Special committees include Educational Trips, Hospitality, and other special committees as deemed necessary. Each committee will keep a record of its activities throughout the year for future reference.

The Museum Educator supervises all aspects of the Palmer Museum Docent program. She works closely with Docents to evaluate, strengthen, and continually improve the program and is an ex-officio member of each committee.