Docent Program

Docents support the Museum's mission of empowering people to create a just and compassionate future by exploring, preserving, and sharing the complexity of our past. Docents do this through staffing hands-on interactive carts, assisting visitors in selected exhibitions, and giving Highlights Tours of the museum. 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 understandings of the nation's history, and shares the work of the museum with its visitors. If you are interested in joining this dynamic, motivated group, and providing an indispensable service to thousands of visitors, we welcome your application. 

We are currently recruiting for docents who will work in a combination of our cart programs and our gallery spotlight programs. Cart programs use objects from our teaching collections to engage visitors. Gallery spotlight programs are informal interactions or short talks in specific museum galleries. Both programs use inquiry based learning (posing questions and engaging in conversation with our visitors) and are designed to help visitors explore important themes in American history.

If you enjoy . . .

  • telling—and listening to—a good story.
  • meeting new people and interacting with diverse audiences.
  • 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 regular volunteer service.
  • volunteer onsite at the museum.

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

The recruitment and training period involves: 

  • An interview process. Interviews will take place in February. Before and during the interview we will provide more details about the training dates, background checks, and other requirements. 
  • Eight in-person training sessions (about 2.5 hours each), which will take place on Saturdays OR Tuesdays from March to early June.
  • Online training lessons in addition to the in-person training sessions, which should be completed on your own between the in-person sessions. 
  • Completing a background check to obtain a Smithsonian ID badge.

Duties and Responsibilities

A docent’s main duty is to serve visitors to the museum by:

  • interpreting the museum’s collections for visitors through interactive programming.
  • communicating directly with visitors, including the general public, students, special-interest groups, and visitors with disabilities.

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

  • facilitate interpretive programs as designed by the Office of Audience Engagement in a manner consistent with program goals and objectives.
  • regularly volunteer at the museum.
  • attend training sessions about facilitation and museum content.
  • participate in periodic evaluations of programs in a spirit of cooperation.
  • maintain an attitude of flexibility and respect in all relationships with visitors, peers, and staff.
  • function at all times within the guidelines and procedures of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum, and the Office of Audience Engagement.

To Apply

If you are interested in becoming a Docent at the National Museum of American History, please apply today through our Volunteer Management System.

You can also contact the Docent Program Manager with any questions. 

NOTE: Acceptance into the program is extended after an interview process and is subject to successful completion of a background investigation. The Smithsonian Institution ensures its employees (federal and trust), applicants, and affiliated persons (interns, research associates, fellows, and volunteers) are protected from discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity, gender stereotyping, pregnancy, and sexual orientation), age, disability, genetic information, marital status, parental status, or political affiliation and are free from reprisal against protected activities. In addition, other Smithsonian policy prohibits discrimination based on membership in an employee organization or other non-merit factors, and political affiliation. Reasonable accommodations are available upon request.

Applications will close on Monday, February 13, 2023.