Docent Program Information

Please note: The VMFA Docent Recruitment Process is currently closed. If you would like to put your name on our list of prospective docents to receive information about future recruitments, please email your contact information to tourservices@vmfa.museum

The docent program is highly competitive and requires a minimum of 10+ hours of service a month through onsite training, touring, and personal study time with a long-term continuing volunteer commitment of at least 3 years.

What is a docent?

“Docent” is a word derived from the Latin word ‘docere’, meaning ‘to teach’. A Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s docent is a specially trained adult volunteer who facilitates learning in the galleries. Docents give interactive tours to the public — school children grades K – 12, college groups, and adult groups — throughout the year.

Who are the VMFA docents?

VMFA docents are a diverse group of volunteers who share a passion for art and the community. Docents are active, enthusiastic, imaginative, and knowledgeable. Docents help visitors discover the world of art by encouraging them to look, explore, question, and understand works of art, styles, concepts, artists, history, and culture.

What is the training commitment?

Weekly training sessions are mandatory September through May and cover topics related to touring techniques, logistics, current museum and art education practices, art history survey, VMFA collections, VMFA museum operations, and institutional history. They are led by VMFA Curators, Education Staff, and special guests such as professors from local universities or staff from other museums.

What is the time commitment involved in becoming a docent?

The average monthly training commitment during your provisional year (first year) is 8 hours of directed on-site training in addition to individual study time and tour preparation and observation. After the first year, docents train 6 to 10 hours and tour 4 hours per month.

What are the requirements for a VMFA provisional docent?

  • Maintain an active VMFA museum membership.
  • Have an active e-mail account and check it daily.
  • Learn how to manage, engage, and tour children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Study outside the onsite training sessions.
  • Give practice tours that will be evaluated by peers and staff.
  • Be open to constructive criticism and willing to improve skills.
  • Have basic computer skills including: Microsoft Word, e-mail, and the Internet.
  • Give 2, 50-minute tours (back-to-back), move/traverse long distances on hard surfaces, and stand/sit for extended periods of time.
  • Complete an extensive one-year training program.
  • Pass a final test tour.

What are the requirements after the first year of training?

  • Maintain an active museum membership and make at least a two-year commitment (minimum) to the Docent Program.
  • Complete the monthly touring hours requirement (4 hours a month on a set schedule, Sept–Sept).
  • Attend all required training sessions (Thursdays 3–4 times a month [either 9–11am or 5:45–7:30 pm], September through May; occasional summer sessions).
  • Be in attendance at the museum for your assigned tour slot regardless of whether you have a tour scheduled.
  • Prepare and deliver engaging, interactive tours for all ages, in particular children in grades K–12 based on scripts or guides written by VMFA staff that relate to the Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools and/or exhibition objectives.
  • Be comfortable leading groups of 16–25 people.
  • Be willing to give occasional extra service, i.e., Docent Committee, specialized tour offerings (Tour of the Month, Teachable Moments, etc.).
  • Have an active e-mail account and check it daily.
  • Have basic computer skills including: Microsoft Word, e-mail, and the Internet.
  • Participate in on-going evaluation by staff and peers.

What are the benefits to being a VMFA docent?

Docents are a vital part of the VMFA’s mission, educational directive, and strategic plan. Continuing education through training sessions will provide you with the foundation for exploring VMFA’s extensive collection. You will assist in serving diverse groups of adults and students by sharing VMFA’s collection and special exhibitions. You will discover that individuals respond differently to your tour information based on their expectations, backgrounds, experiences, and interests. This exchange of ideas provides you and your visitors with a wealth of new perspectives on art, culture, and the community.

Docents also receive opportunities to travel on specific trips, 20% discount on art history courses or lectures at the Museum, 25% discount on catalogues and books, and 10% discount in the VMFA shop and restaurant. You will also enjoy the camaraderie of other amazing docents!