Last spring I decided to apply as volunteer docent at the National 9/11 Memorial Museum. I was accepted into the next training course soon after. A docent’s main responsibility is to offer historical content and background information about artifacts to the Museum’s visitors. This requires both a solid understanding of the content, and an earnest desire to consistently engage with visitors from around the world. While incredibly meaningful, being and becoming a docent is demanding. Applicants are carefully screened to ensure the position makes sense prior to beginning the program.
My training consisted of over 72 hours in a three month period. The mandatory reading material and tests far surpassed any college course I’ve attended. The purpose of such a hardcore program is to ensure information is communicated accurately. The sensitivity and nature of the content demand so. I had approximately 20 other volunteers in my class. These people included widowers, tower survivors, first responders, and college students. The museum is a sensitive, unique, and somber place to work. Accommodations and support resources are provided to volunteers and staff to deal with the emotional stress.
Everyone has their own reason for visiting the museum. Thankfully, I’ve never had anyone ask me if I could “hook them up” with a tour. It’s a personal experience for each individual. The museum doesn’t want to tailor the experience or push information. Docent’s are instructed to read people and their behavior before approaching. Some people don’t want to be bothered, others are curious and seek more information.
I encourage everyone to visit when in the New York area. Tickets can be requested online as early as three months in advance.
To learn more visit the official site at 911memorial.org
Feature image courtesy of nypost.com