During the “What Museums Can Teach Us” panel at Hamilton’s Wellin Museum of Art, four current and former members of the museum’s docent program discussed their careers or plans and the impact the docent experience has had on them. Participants included Matthew Tom ’20, Isha Parkhi ’21, Olivia Davis ’23, and Maeve Zimmerman ’23.
Docents are students who not only lead tours of the Wellin’s exhibits and answer questions, but also greet visitors and participate in collection research. Being a docent takes practice, strong presentation skills, and an in-depth knowledge of the content being presented.
Tom, a media relations coordinator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, interned at the Met as a student and at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He attributed his internships to the skills he learned at the Wellin, where he explored many of the different roles within a museum. He contributed to collections research, led tours, and helped run social media. “[This] really helped applying to internships when I was in school because I could [stress] that I had this flexibility,” he said.
Parkhi had not originally pursued a career in art, instead working in college admissions after graduation.
At the Wellin, she was a research and interpretation docent, a position created specifically for her and tailored to her interest in the museum’s archives and collections. Now, she is with Resnicow and Associates in New York, a public relations firm that works with arts organizations and museums. “I [initially] did not see a career in the arts as an option for me,” Parkhi said. “Having that piece [on my résumé] about the Wellin and what I did definitely helped me get my job.”
For Davis, an economics major, her time at Hamilton helped cultivate her passion for museums. “Having worked at the Wellin, museums definitely have a permanent part in my life,” she said. During her finance internship at Goldman Sachs, Davis learned how the company works closely with a museum in Harlem and helped them raise money for a new building. Davis now plans to do similar work financing museums after graduation.
Exploring yet another path, Zimmerman’s Wellin experience helped her get an internship as an art advisor in Boston, opening doors to fulfilling her dream. “I have wanted to work in the art world for so long,” she said. As an art advisor, she “collaborated with galleries and clients to find the perfect art its new home.”
Through working at the Wellin, docents gain professional experience in the art world, which exposes them to different career paths, empowering the students with the skills necessary for success.