Come to UMMA on a Friday afternoon and you may find a UM student leading a tour in the galleries. This is not a student working on a class project, but a member of UMMA's volunteer Student Docent Program. In addition to leading "Lunchtime Tours" and "Storytime at the Museum" events for children on the weekends, student docents have the opportunity to deeply engage with the art and the Museum in a variety of ways.
The program, developed and led by UMMA Associate Curator for Education Pam Reister, launched in January 2009, and grew out of the strategic plan developed in advance of UMMA's reopening. UMMA administrators felt that it was important to provide students with the opportunity to learn through touring and that they needed their own program, separate from the well-established community docent corps, in order to accommodate their irregular and busy schedules. "I am incredibly pleased with the program. It is very flexible, which is important in the life of a student and it has allowed me to broaden my interests and try something new, " said UM junior Andrea Eggertsen.
Launching the new "Lunchtime Tours," two students designed tours around topics of interest to them. Eggertsen led a tour about depictions of love and sophomore Lizzie Tsung led a Halloween-inspired tour that she called "The Dark Side of Art." "I feel like this program has made me more aware-aware of my surroundings, of people, and of course art!," explained Tsung.
Students meet with Reister once a week for training in the galleries. Originally the program focused mainly on touring, but now, explains Reister, "the training is more about what does it mean to work in a museum rather than solely on how to tour." Training begins with learning about the history of museums and how museum architecture influences a visit. "We start by looking at the building and then delve into specific galleries and specific works," said Reister.
This training helps to prepare the students for the other projects they take part in at the Museum. This summer Reister connected with the UM Museum Studies Program so that students in Museums 301/ 409 can use their hours as student docents towards their required internship credits. Some students have more focused departmental projects at UMMA. Student docents are currently working in the development department, the curatorial department, and with the registration staff. You may also find student docents assisting visitors with the DialogTable or at the visitors desk.
"I love working with the students," said Reister. "They have fresh ideas and are enthusiastic. Many of them are already sure they want to work in museums."
Sophomore Rebecca Guerriero explains why she enjoys being part of the program: "I do it because I love art and the opportunity to learn more about art. I'm learning how to share, teach, and show people art, but I am learning so much myself, which to me is the best part of the program."