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Docent Council

The Docent Council is a lively group of art enthusiasts who enjoy learning and sharing their knowledge of the Museum’s collection with the community. The word docent derives from the Latin verb “docent” meaning to teach, to conduct, or to take care of. Today, this word has come to mean anyone associated with volunteer educational services to a museum. At the Portland Art Museum, docents are a vital link between what is displayed in the Museum and how visitors respond to what they see. When visitors come to the Museum, the docent’s function is to open new doors to looking.

What is the Docent Council?

In partnership with the education department, the Docent Council is a self-governed body of volunteers who provide educational tours and other arts experiences on behalf of the Portland Art Museum.

How many docents are there, and what do they do?

Currently, there are more than 185 docents in the Docent Council at the Portland Art Museum, including docents-in-training, active docents, sustainer docents, and education affiliate docents.The Mission of the Docent Council is to:

  • Deliver high quality art experiences to people of all ages
  • Create a welcoming environment for learning about art
  • Educate fellow docents in museum learning, art history, and touring strategies

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What background is required?

Docent Council members must be members of the Museum. The following is also required:

  • Interest in art
  • Good public speaking skills
  • Ability to work well with children and adults
  • Flexibility
  • Time
  • Ability to commit to a one–year training program and additional years of touring

While the Museum does not require a background in art history or studio art, some knowledge of art and/or art–making techniques is helpful.

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What is the time commitment?

In general, the Docent Council follows the school calendar, meeting on Monday mornings from 9:30-11:00 a.m. beginning in September and ending in June.

During the first year, docents-in-training meet from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. each Monday. Each docent-in-training is allowed a maximum of three excused absences during the training year. Since the program follows the school year, docent education sessions do not meet over Thanksgiving, winter recess, or spring break. In addition to the Monday education sessions, docents-in-training will need to observe tours; spend time in the galleries looking at works of art; conduct and present research about museum learning, the Portland Art Museum’s permanent collection, and general art history; and participate in group discussions.

After the training year, docents continue to attend Monday morning lectures and give tours in the Museum’s galleries to our diverse audiences. Docents will ideally be able to commit to multiple years of touring.

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What else do I need to consider when applying to the Docent Council?

In addition to the maximum of three excused absences during the training year, other considerations include:

  • Required membership to the Portland Art Museum
  • Annual Docent Council dues ($50 scholarships available)
  • Consistent access to email and the internet
  • Cost of parking downtown or use of public transportation

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How do I apply to the council?

Thank you very much for your interest in becoming part of the Portland Art Museum’s Docent Program. All positions are currently filled. Please check back for future opportunities.

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The time commitment required for the Docent Council does not work for me right now. Is there any way I can still be involved with the Museum?

There are many types of volunteer opportunities at the Portland Art Museum. In addition to the Docent Council, there are several other Art Councils that welcome your involvement, especially if you have interest in a particular area of art. For other volunteer positions (i.e. Guest Services, Rental Sales Gallery, etc.) please visit the Museum’s volunteer page.

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For more information about the Docent Council, please contact Sarah Lampen, Manager of Docent and Access Programs at sarah.lampen@pam.org.


Docent Council Membership

Level Annual Fee
Active (individual) $50