Volunteer Program

Special Opportunities

Spark!Lab Ambassador 

Work with museum visitors in Spark!Lab, a hands-on invention space for children and families that opened on July 1, 2015. Spark!Lab Ambassadors will play an active role in:
  • Facilitating Meaningful Visitor Experiences: welcoming a diverse group of visitors and engaging in inquiry-based discovery at a variety of hands-on activity stations; using creative methods to inspire and encourage children's and family's interest in the invention process.
  • Assisting daily facility operations in Spark!Lab: getting the space and hands on activities ready for visitor use; helping with some routine maintenance necessary to keep the innovation and imagination flowing!
If You are Good at and Enjoy...
  • tinkering, experimenting, asking questions, constructing and deconstructing things to figure out how they work
  • interacting with diverse audiences, age groups and learning styles
  • working in an often busy and changing environment
If You Have...
  • some experience working in a hands-on, informal education space
  • strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • an interest in invention, history, and science
If You are Able to...
  • commit to at least two 4-hour shifts a month, including weekends and holidays...
  • handle frequent walking, standing, bending and lifting... 
Applications are currently being accepted. To apply, find the listing in the Smithsonian's Long-term Volunteer Opportunities page. Or contact Laurel Miller at MillerL@si.edu or 202.633.7304 to request an application. 

Museum Ambassador Program 

We are currently recruiting a new Fall 2015 Museum Ambassador class. In 2014, our Museum Ambassadors helped over 100,000 people get the most out of their visits by welcoming groups, circulating throughout the Museum's public zones to answer basic questions, and directing visitors to programs and exhibitions of interest. This year, the Museum Ambassadors will expand their role to assist staff with the debut of an Introduction Film to the Museum later this fall.

The Ambassador program has a flexible sign up system and is a great way to stay active and interact with the public. So apply today using the listing in the Smithsonian's Long-term Volunteer Opportunities page! 

Join the Museum's Ambassador Corps! Deadline to apply: Tuesday, October 13, 2015. Learn more about what Museum Ambassadors do on the blog.

Questions? Contact Brianna Rossettie at (202) 633-3353 or RossettieB@si.edu.

Docent Program  

Please note: While applications may be submitted anytime, we do not expect to train another general docent class until fall 2016/winter 2017.  We will contact all applicants when the dates for the next training class are set.

Do you love to tell—and listen to—a good story? Is "meeting people" your idea of a good time? Are you the "unofficial" tour guide for your friends and family? If so, then consider becoming a docent at the Museum!

Docents support the Museum's collections, research, and exhibitions by staffing interactive carts, assisting visitors in selected exhibitions, giving Highlights Tours, and facilitating hands-on activities. Thousands of visitors—from local communities, across the nation, and around the world—benefit from docent-led activities each year. The program is designed to offer all visitors an exciting and engaging experience that stimulates conversation, promote an appreciation of the nation's history, and deepen the understanding of what it means to be an American.

If you are interested in joining this dynamic, motivated group, and providing an indispensable service to thousands of visitors, we welcome your application.

Basic Qualifications: 

The Museum's Docent Program is open to men and women eighteen years of age or older who are enthusiastic, flexible, interested in American history and culture, and able to communicate effectively with people of all ages and backgrounds. Once accepted, docent candidates must successfully complete all required training for their assigned programs, and be able to commit to a regular schedule for at least one year (one day per week for the weekday program or two days per month for the weekend program). The Smithsonian Institution is committed to diversity. Women, minorities, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply. Reasonable accommodations are available upon request.


New docents will train for one program during their first year. Required training is provisionally scheduled for fall 2016/winter 2017. Sessions will focus on informal learning in museums, interpretive techniques, and American history. Additional enrichment training is scheduled throughout the year and includes lectures, workshops, field trips, and seminars.

Duties and Responsibilities:

A docent's first duty is to serve visitors to the Museum:

  • Interpret the Museum's collections for visitors.
  • Communicate directly with visitors, including the general public, students, special-interest groups, or people with special needs.
  • Maintain an attitude of respect for all visitors regardless of sex, age, national origin, race, or physical abilities.

Docents must also work in concert with other staff and volunteers of the Museum to:

  • Present interpretive programs as designed by the Office of Education and Public Engagement in a manner consistent with program goals and objectives.
  • Fulfill the required commitment of one day per week or two weekend days per month.
  • Obtain substitutes for any regular commitment in case of planned absence.
  • Attend training sessions as required.
  • Accept periodic audits and evaluations of presentations in a spirit of cooperation.
  • Maintain an attitude of flexibility and respect in all relationships with peers and staff.
  • Function at all times within the guidelines and procedures of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum, and the Office of Public Programs.

To apply: To apply find the American History Museum Docent Program listing.  You will be notified about dates for orientation meetings at which current openings will be discussed once the training dates have been set. Following that meeting, acceptance into the program and program assignments are announced. NOTE: Acceptance into the docent program is subject to successful completion of a background investigation. For information about other volunteer programs at the Smithsonian Institution, check out Opportunities for Volunteer Service.

Ongoing Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Information Specialist Program
Managed centrally through the Office of Visitor Services, Volunteer Information Specialists provide information services to museum visitors at Museum information desks or to persons telephoning the Institution for assistance. In addition to welcoming visitors, museum desk volunteers provide a broad range of information about the Smithsonian—its exhibitions, activities, and services—and general information on other popular attractions in Washington, D.C. Telephone information volunteers respond to inquiries that pertain to the full range of Smithsonian activity, forward calls to either offices or staff members as appropriate, and fulfill a variety of requests for printed information. Learn more about becoming a Volunteer Information Specialist.

Behind-the-Scenes Volunteer Program 

Also managed through VIARC, the Behind-the-Scenes Volunteer Program provides assistance to Smithsonian staff by recruiting and placing individuals who wish to contribute their time and expertise to specific areas of study within the Institution. Volunteers in this program work with staff members on both short-term and long-term projects. Opportunities are generally available in: archives; libraries; administrative offices; conservation laboratories; and curatorial divisions related to art, history, and science collections. Learn more about becoming a Behind-the-Scenes Volunteer.

William Steinway Diary Project
William Steinway (1836-1896), who presided over the firm that manufactured Steinway pianos, kept a diary from 1861 until his death in 1896. He typically wrote a brief summary of each day's events. The diary provides a fascinating view of life in 19th century New York City, including the Steinway family and businesses, piano making, German American culture, musical life of the city, politics, leisure, business and labor developments, travel and transportation, weather, and changes in the fabric of the city.
The project website displays high resolution scans and transcriptions of each page of the diary, plus photographs and other relevant materials. Volunteers research the persons, places, and events mentioned in the diary, producing annotations and research reports to explain Steinway's diary text more fully. Annotations are posted to the site, making them accessible to the public. The project is also writing blog posts relating topics in the diary to present day events.
Volunteers meet on the afternoon of the second Thursday of each month to discuss priorities, sources of information, and assignments. Research and related tasks are performed independently on one's own schedule.
Volunteers are needed to:
  • Research and prepare annotations and reports on items mentioned in the diary
  • Identify digital images relating to annotations, secure permissions, write captions, edit, proof-read and fact-check annotations
  • Translate German-language sources about events mentioned in the diary
  • Assist with administrative tasks
Questions?  Interested in joining the Project? Contact Cynthia Adams Hoover (hooverc@si.edu) or Karen Johnson (johnsonk@si.edu).

The Smithsonian is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.  Women, minorities, people with disabilities, and candidates of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.