Docent Program

Please note: while applications may be submitted anytime, we do not expect to train another general docent class until 2018. We will contact all applicants when the dates for the next training class are set.

Docents support the Museum’s collections, research, and exhibitions by staffing interactive carts assisting visitors in selected exhibitions, giving highlights tours, and facilitating hand-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, promotes an appreciation of the nation’s history, and deepens their understanding of what it means to be an American.

If you enjoy . . .

  • telling—and listening to—a good story.
  • meeting new people and interacting with diverse audiences, age groups, and learning styles.
  • working in a busy and often changing environment.

If you have . . .

  • an interest in American history and culture.
  • strong interpersonal and communication skills.
  • reached 18 years of age.

If you can . . .

  • communicate effectively with people of all ages and backgrounds.
  • 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).
  • handle frequent walking and standing.

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

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 2018. Sessions will focus on information 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 by . . .

  • interpreting the Museum’s collections for visitors.
  • communicating directly with visitors, including the general public, students, special-interest groups, or people with special needs.
  • maintaining 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 Education and Public Engagement.

To Apply:

Find the American History Museum Docent Program listing and fill out the application. Once the training dates have been set, you will be notified of dates for interview during which current openings will be discussed. Following that interview, acceptance into the program and program assignments are announced. NOTE: Acceptance into the docent program is subject to successful competition of a background investigation.

Apply to be a Volunteer Docent