Become a Docent

Today’s post is from Museum docent James McCarthy

When I moved to Corning and heard that that this sleepy little city in upstate New York had a world-renowned museum dedicated to glass, I thought “How can you devote an entire museum to glass…?”  After walking into the new, expanded admissions area, seeing Dale Chihuly’s Fern Green Tower and looking up into the Innovations Center, I had an inkling.  After wandering the entirety of the Museum, I got it.  To say I was impressed would be a bit of an understatement.

Corning Museum of Glass docent James

Corning Museum of Glass Docent James McCarthy

Whenever friends or family would visit from out of town, I’d take them through the Museum.  Everyone would greatly enjoy their visit, but I quickly discovered that I knew little to nothing about glass and was unable to answer most of their questions.  A friend approached me several years later about becoming a docent, but my kids were still young and I wasn’t sure I could devote the time necessary.

Fast forward several years.  With one son in college and the other in high school, I figured I finally had the time to go through docent training.  After filling out an application and going through an interview, lie detector test and rigorous physical fitness test, I was ready to begin the program. Well, maybe I only had to fill out the application and do the interview…

On the first day of training, I was a little unnerved to receive a 3-inch binder.  Was this binder going to be full by the end of training?  Was I going to be required to know everything within that binder?  Luckily, the answer to both questions was “no.”  The extra space in the binder was provided to allow for the addition of any supplemental materials that I thought might help me.  As for knowing everything within the, not quite full, binder…  it’s the rare person that can do that, and I am not that person.

Docent training was thorough and very well presented.  The docent trainers are excellent instructors and they went out of their way to prepare me to conduct tours.  They walked me through the process methodically, ensuring I was comfortable and ready to move forward.  It was for these reasons that I felt confident when I gave my first tour.  A confidence that grows with each successive tour.

If I knew then what I know now, I would not have hesitated when first approached about becoming a docent.  I now realize that I could have completed the training program even with younger children in the house.

If you are interested in glass and enjoy engaging people, then I would highly recommend you give the CMoG docent program a try.  You will learn much, meet many new people, be well cared for, and most likely enjoy yourself immensely.


Interested in becoming a Docent? Docents (volunteer guides) provide valuable service to the Museum and to the wider community by volunteering their time to give tours to adults, families and school groups. They engage, educate and inspire visitors from around the world as they share their knowledge of 35 centuries of glass art, history and science.

The application deadline for the 2013-2014 New Docent Training class is September 3, 2013. Apply Now >

For information, visit http://www.cmog.org/get-involved/volunteer/docent, or contact Cindy Price at 607.438.5113 or docents@cmog.org.