Sporting my snappy orange coat, I recently joined Peter Ralston and Brian Shinoda, two of our veteran docents, for a tour of duty on the public floor. We started at Human Odyssey, advanced to Claude and the Swamp, then off to Earthquake, with the finale on the living roof. It was fascinating. First, my two companions really knew what they were doing, in contrast to the rookie. When a visitor asked us, “What should I see?”, I replied exuberantly, “Everything of course!” Fortunately, my colleagues rescued the moment and provided the visitor with a very sensible way of organizing his day.
Then there were the dozens of questions about all sorts of issues, practical and scientific. I decided to watch and listen.
I discovered that the orange coat really changed my relationship with the people on the public floor. First, I slowed down. I wasn’t just getting from one point to another; I was lingering and looking eager to conversation. Then, the orange coat sent the message, “I’m here for you. Ask me for information, advice, help, anything.”
I came away having had a great hour on the floor. I came away admiring even more just how important our docent corps is to the success of this institution. They put a human face on all of our other wonders. They make the Academy welcoming, warm, inviting, friendly—AND they provide a lot of scientific information that amplifies what’s in the exhibits.
So, thank a docent when you see one. They really matter to the success of this place. And thank you from me to Peter and Brian—my two expert guides in my first foray into docent-dom.