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HISTORY OF THE DOCENT COUNCIL OF METROPOLITAN

SAINT LOUIS

In 1987 a metropolitan docent council was formed with the backing and
support of the Saint Louis Junior League to plan an event called Docent
Doorways. It was held at the Saint Louis Public Library in June 1988. The
event was well publicized and representatives from about fifteen institutions
worked on the planning committee. Funding came from the Junior League,
The Saint Louis Public Library, Friends of the Saint Louis Public Library
and ticket sales. The event consisted of a keynote speaker, ten workshops
and a box lunch. Approximately 175 docents and tour guides attended this
one-time event.

In the Fall of 1989, this docent council was reactivated with the goal of
creating an on-going organization which would share information and
promote the roles of docents and tour guides. Eight institutions were
represented. By-laws were adopted and the name Docent Council of
Metropolitan Saint Louis was selected. At this first meeting, it was decided
that each participating institution would be asked to pay annual dues of
$25.00 to cover administrative (mailing) costs. The new council also
decided to sponsor exchange tours.

Since that first meeting back in 1989 the Docent Council of Metropolitan
Saint Louis has gone through many changes, but the mission has remained
the same; to facilitate communication and the exchange of information and
ideas among the representatives from member cultural institutions in the
Metropolitan Saint Louis area.

The Docent Council today has 24 institutional members. It sponsors


Exchange Tours, Symposiums or Round Table Discussions every year. The
Docent Council has also taken on the role as advisor and supporter to all of
its members. The Council is there to support and help its fellow members
through discussions at council meetings and sponsors Docent Council
Volunteers which help out each other’s Institutions whenever extra help is
needed.
History of Docent Council Symposiums and Special Events
Symposium 1993
Location: Missouri History Museum

“Presentation skills” – Kathleen Sitzer, Theater Works

“Forest Park” Caroline Loughlin, zoo docent & co-author of Forest Park

Speaker – Linda Doede, Manager of Vol. Services – Chicago Botanical


Garden and AAMV Rep

“Saint Louis in the Gilded age” – MHS – docents

Special needs awareness training – zoo docents

Symposium 1995

Location: Four locations – Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden, Missouri


History Museum, and Saint Louis Art Museum – Four different days

Zoo – Panel discussion – issues facing volunteer organizations and tour or


classroom presentation

Missouri Botanical Garden – A tour and viewing of major plant groups. Intro
to sumi painting.

Missouri Historical Society - An educational program in the theater and talk


on incorporating theater in your tours

Saint Louis Art Museum – Art Museum docents presented a program on age-
related tours. Pre-school to adult.

Symposium 1997

Location: Four locations Zoo, Missouri History Museum, Missouri


Botanical Garden and the Saint Louis Art Museum on four different days.
Zoo – A panel discussion on how to make your Institution more attractive to
children (panelists from Science Center, Overland Historical Society, and
Laumeier Sculpture Park. The Zoo also gave tours of their Animal Hospital
and research center.

Missouri Botanical Garden – “New Ways of Docenting” a lecture/demo and


a tour of the new Chinese Garden

Missouri Historical Society – Docent do presentation about the 1904 Worlds


Fair.

Saint Louis Art Museum – Presents a program by an award winning story


performer, January Kiefer on story telling and story telling techniques . They
also provided free admission and tours of “in the Light of Italy: Corot and
Early Open-Air Painting”

Symposium 1999

Location: The Saint Louis Art Museum and the St. Louis Public Library
“One Eminent Architect, Two Grand Buildings’

A day devoted to the architect Cass Gilbert and his two prominent works:
The Saint Louis Public Library and The Saint Louis Art Museum.

A slide lecture on Cass Gilbert by Ann Lernners (Library docent) in Friends


Room at the Saint Louis Art Museum, docent led tours of Art Museum. Bus
ride to Shell Café and docent led tours of the Public Library

Docent Council Round table 2000

Location: Saint Louis Art Museum

St. Louis Docents and staff members from eighteen member institutions
attended our Roundtable Discussion session. Two topics were discussed,
“Recruitment and Retention of Docents” and “How to Have More
Interactive Tours and Hooks to Draw Groups In”. Results were published
and later distributed to the docents.
Symposium 2001

Location: Repertory Theater

Staff at the Repertory Theater presented the Symposium

Theater’s Director, Steve Woolf, talked to us about Communication. Actors


and their Director of Education, Marsha Coplon, gave us tips, voice lessons,
and discussed the following topics: “Grabbing your Group” Self-
Preservation in Self-Presentation, Going from “Show & Tell to a interactive
Presentation.

Docent Council Round table 2002

Location: Saint Louis Public Library

St. Louis Docents and staff members from member institutions attended our
Roundtable Discussion session. The topic which was discussed: “How Can
Staff Be More Helpful to Docents.” Results were published and later
distributed to the docents.

Symposium 2003

Location: Missouri Botanical Garden

“Working with All: Increasing Docent Awareness of people with Age-


related, Developmental, and Physical Disabilities”

We had local experts on the subject speak to us. A panel of disabled people
told us about how they like to be treated when they visited Museums and we
had hands on activities that gave attendees an idea of what it would be like
to be disabled. Docent Do’s & Don’ts were discussed. We also provided a
special session for Docent coordinators on recruiting Docents of All
Abilities. We even provided a handbook for all attendees.

Symposium 2004

Location: Missouri History Museum


“Celebration 2004”

Attendees enjoyed tours given by the MHS’ docents of the Lewis and Clark
exhibit. Carolyn Gilman gave an entertaining and informative lecture to our
group about the exhibit. Gave a talk about the 1904 Worlds Fair and docent
representatives from member institutions gave reports on what their
institutions did to celebrate “2004”.

Symposium 2005

Location: Missouri History Museum

“Sharing Knowledge to Make Tours Even Better in 2005”

“Improving Communication Skills”

Speaker: Marsha Coplon (Director of Education, Repertory Theater)

“How to Make Tours More Interactive”

Speaker: Louise Cameron (Head of Interpretation, Saint Louis Art Museum)

“Opening and Closing Tours” Speaker: Dan Reich (Curator and Director of
Education, Holocaust Museum and Learning Center)

A Staff Appreciation Luncheon 2006

Location: Saint Louis Public Library, Buder Branch

“Hats off to our Staff!”

A luncheon was provided by the Docent Council of Metropolitan Saint


Louis to staff members from all over St. Louis who work with docents. The
council wanted to thank them by serving a delicious lunch and providing
them an opportunity to network with your peers.

Symposium 2007
Location: Missouri History Museum

“Age Matters”

“Working With High School Students, Part I”

Saint Louis Art Museum - Louise Cameron, Head of Interpretation & Betsy
Zimbalist, Docent

“Working With High School Students, Part II”

Holocaust Museum and Learning Center - Jean Cavender, Director of


HMLC & Fran Poger, Docent

“Working With Older Adults, Part I”

The Saint Louis Zoo - Lisa Berman, Outreach Coordinator & Celeste
Ruwwe, Docent

“Working With Older Adults, Part II: When the older adults are the Docents”
(A special session for staff: Docents welcome)Missouri Historical Society -
Halcyone Brown, Volunteer Services Coordinator