Today I am grateful for museum docents. Yesterday I went to a wonderful lecture by a volunteer docent from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Not only did she have a clear speaking voice and wonderful slides of the new Korean art exhibit which is on loan, but she also really, really knew the material without one note. Not one. Having done a bit of public speaking, I can say that she was skilled. It’s not easy and in order to do this flawlessly, you really have to not only know, but understand your material backwards and forwards.
She rattled off traditions and dates and structure of paintings and what they were on and what they meant and who would own them, better than I can tell you what I had for breakfast. She didn’t specifically ask if there were questions, but she also didn’t miss a beat when I asked a few along the way. My asking encouraged others to ask and she never hesitated, no matter what was asked.
The talk was held in a retirement/progressive facility, so she also had to deal with people talking out loud because of hearing problems and rudeness, a couple of ringing cell phones and a lot of comings and goings and door openings for potty breaks. Geeze. But the biggest challenge was that a third of the crowd was Korean-Americans. How wonderful for them to see the art from their native land honored so beautifully. Tough crowd, but that docent held her own.
I’ve been to museums where docents did tours and they always amaze me. Most times, like this woman, they are volunteers who feel passionately about what they do. Like most volunteers, satisfaction is their pay. I think I’d be good at it as long as it wasn’t in a cartographer museum. I think a bunch of us would be good at it, which just proves that there is no reason on earth to ever be bored. Especially after you retire.
I am grateful for docents and hope I get to see the below exhibit up close and personal. It will feel like a small trip through Asia. . .again!
Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910
Now Through May 26, 2014
Treasures from Korea celebrates the artistic achievements of the Joseon dynasty, a line of monarchs that ruled for more than five hundred years and left a substantial legacy for modern Korea. A variety of objects—including painted screens, scrolls, calligraphy, furnishings, costumes, accessories, and ritual wares—explore the roles of king and court, the distinct spheres of men and women in society, and religious beliefs. This is the first full-scale American exhibition to be devoted to art of the Joseon dynasty.