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art in sight_April 2015

UMFA docent and volunteer newsletter home


Why We Are Here
A letter from Katie White

One of the main reasons I have been drawn to working in the museum world is the effect museums have on people in the communities they serve. At the UMFA our docents are a huge part of our ability to reach and affect the lives of those in our community. Nothing makes my day better than walking through our galleries when they are filled with docents and tour groups talking excitedly and learning together. I find these moments so invigorating because they cause me to stop and remember that this is it, this is why each one of us works or serves at the UMFA. These excited conversations and wide eyes opening up to new knowledge and ideas are why each of us does what we do. This month I wanted to take the opportunity to share a couple of notes with you from groups who have been affected by your hard work as our docent corps. Thank you for all you do and the wonderful experiences you create for our visitors!

This first thank you comes from one of our first elementary school groups who came to see Our America. They had first received a wonderful classroom visit from Annie and then came out to see the exhibition themselves:

"Thank you so much for another wonderful field trip this year. I accompanied a group and we had a marvelous time. I loved seeing the kids so full of energy and excitement as they explored the art. There are so many mysteries to solve and different ways to see! I love the way the docents encouraged the kids to lead the discussion. I think the in-class presentation really added to their experience. The kids were so excited to be a part of the exhibit. Later in the evening I saw some of the students at a community event. They said they were dying to go back to the museum with their families so they could spend more time. They really wanted to see all of the galleries they missed. They seemed very excited about what they had seen an learned. Thanks for making that possible!  Please pass on my great appreciation to the museum staff and docents. I really appreciate their generosity, patience, and kindness.  They are a lovely group of people. Many, many thanks from one mom (and seventy kids) who is grateful to have had such a colorful, beautiful day!"

Another thank you came from a teacher after their Kindergarteners came for a highlights tour and art project in the classroom. They learned about pattern and created their own monster claws:

"I just wanted to say thank you for the great experience you gave my kids today. We really enjoyed the museum.  Your docent team was fabulous. This is a field trip that we will be talking about for a long time.  Again, thank you!"

And finally, Thursday Docent Sandra Roca was kind enough to share this enlightening experience from a few months ago:

"In my tours I like to show the kids the Portrait of a Lady attributed to Frans Pourbus and the paintings surrounding it, then I let them make up a story—what if these people where all sitting at a dinner table together? Who are they, are they related, what would they talk about? After we were done storytelling, one little kid asked me: "Why would people have their picture PAINTED?" I puzzled over the question for a second, then it dawned on me: "You know, they didn't have cameras and smartphones 400 years ago..." The reaction was: "Ohhh!" all around. That really made my day—I learn so much with every tour!"

 Not only do tour groups learn from the museum and our docents but often we find ourselves learning from our visitors. Here at the UMFA we are so lucky to have such a wonderful team of docents that make interactions and moments like these possible every day. Thank you for all you do!

*If you would like to share an experience you have had while serving at the museum please email them to


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annie | assistant curator of education

virginia | curator of education

iris | campus outreach coordinator

laura | coordinator of Educator Programs

kate | public school outreach assistant

katie | volunteer and tour program coordinator








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