Job Description

Docents are volunteers who conduct tours for visitors of all ages and diverse backgrounds. Utilizing the techniques of dialogue and inquiry, the docents encourage exploration and interpretation of the exhibitions of the Oriental Institute Museum.

Docents …

  • Learn about the history of the ancient Near East
  • Learn about and implement current educational theory and pedagogy
  • Gain skills in working with people of all ages and interests
  • Work with others as part of a motivated and dedicated team
  • Serve as Oriental Institute Ambassadors

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It is the goal of the Oriental Institute Volunteer Program to offer a flexible yet rigorous docent training program. We understand that potential candidates lead busy lives, so we offer multiple ways to learn about our Museum and its collections. An ongoing indepedent study program is always available to introduce new volunteers to the Oriental Institute and its areas of research. The independent study progarm usually takes from 3 to 6 months.


  • Docents learn to conduct tours offered by the Museum for children (ages 8-18) and adults. Trainees receive a solid background and framework in providing tours.
  • Participants in the Oriental Institute Docent Training Program are provided an introduction to the history of the Oriental Institute and its collections through lectures, readings, hands-on in-gallery workshops, discussions and explorations of exhibitions, connections to proper tour techniques, and education methods and pedagogy.
  • Each docent trainee is assigned a sponsor at the beginning of the program. Sponsors are current docents who have volunteered to help mentor a trainee and help guide him or her through the learning process.
  • Trainees are required to complete additional readings and homework outside of class.
  • Extra time is required outside of the training sessions to practice your tour style.
  • When the trainee and sponsor feel that a trainee is ready, they schedule a tour presentation with Education staff and docents. The trainee’s presentation will be evaluated based on 1) Engagement with the audience; 2) Use of tour techniques to keep the tour moving and on time, answers to visitors’ questions, and ability to keep the audience’s attention; 3) Use of objects and themes to convey large concepts and ideas; 4) Ability to encourage visitors to use critical thinking skills; and 5) Knowledge of the content. The evaluation will determine if the trainee is ready to become a certified docent, or if there are areas that need improvement.
    • Complete initial training, which is either the scheduled Monday Volunteer Day lectures, or a combination of Thursday Lunchtime Traveler gallery talks. Work with Education staff and Sponsor to determine final training regiment.
    • Shadowing a minimum of six docent-led tours
    • Develop your own tour presented to peers and Education staff
    • Attend monthly business meetings and ongoing training opportunities
    • After the first year, all docents are required to give 18 tours a year, and attend a minimum of six annual training opportunities
    • Submit online application
    • Participate in an on-site interview
    • Complete background check
    • Email and web access required — will use web-based volunteer scheduling software Volgistics to schedule volunteer shifts and record hours worked
    • Have a positive attitude and adhere to the Oriental Institute policies, procedures, and guest-service standards