When visitors step inside the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, they will usually be overwhelmed by the number of pieces to look at. Visitors are encouraged to take guided tours to gain an adequate understanding of museum exhibitions. In order to accommodate the need for guided tours, the museum has set up a program for student volunteers to become docents.

Assistant to the Director of the Museum of Art Victoria Baldwin-Wilson established a program for visitors who are interested in docent-guided tours and volunteers who are interested in providing the tours. Baldwin-Wilson and education interns Katherine Stewart '12 and Estefania Sanchez '12 will train any Bowdoin student who is interested in becoming a docent.

"Docents learn to see pieces of art in the larger framework of the exhibition, and how to explain some of the major themes of each exhibition to the public," said Stewart.

Students who are interested in teaching others about the themes and interpretations of art can sign-up for this volunteer program and, with some training, begin providing tours.

"We always tell the docents that the word 'docent' comes from the Latin word 'docere' which means to teach," said Sanchez. "It is essentially what the student docent does, teach others about the pieces of art."

Interested students do not need to worry about a selection process for the volunteer program. Individuals merely fill out a brief questionnaire about their public speaking skills and previous experience working with groups. Then, according to their questionnaire, students are accommodated into appropriate training sessions.

Stewart said that the availability of the program will encourage more students who are interested to apply for the position.

"The idea is to be as inclusive as possible; the Bowdoin College museum has incredible resources," she said. "If someone is interested, then they are automatically qualified."

Classes and prior knowledge in art and art history are not required and any student with an interest in art and pedagogy are encouraged to apply.

The tasks of a volunteer docent include providing tours to school classes and adult groups. These tours are often given during Parents Weekend and homecoming. In order to learn more about art and its creation, volunteers are encouraged to attend art lectures by guest speakers in addition to exhibition openings.

Overall, the museum staff wishes to help student docents develop their own educated, creative interpretations of the artwork before them.

According to Stewart, this training process helps students become "living, breathing aides that help visitors to gain a further understanding of what they are seeing when they walk through."

In addition, student docents are responsible for engaging with their visitors, remaining polite, and using their knowledge of art to give visitors a worthwhile tour. Volunteer docents are simply encouraged to know enough information to provide a comfortable, engaging, and exciting tour.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has been looking for student docents since its 2007 renovation. Sanchez explains that the volunteer program for student docents exists in order to broaden the museum's reach into the community.

"Since the Museum is so [engrained] into the college and community, the students are a great way of connecting the Museum, students and community into one," Sanchez commented.

"The great thing about being a docent is the access you have to the art, as well as the Museum, staff and professors who have worked tirelessly to create the displays you see in front of you," said Stewart.

Many students have expressed interest in joining the docent program thus far.

Docent training sessions are usually held every other Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m.; students who are interested are encouraged to contact Sanchez or Stewart to sign up.

Docent-guided tours run hourly between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday.

The tours are free of charge.