HRM Docents Successfully Pivot to Virtual Programs

Working as an HRM Docent has given Docent Council President Hal Greenberg a real sense of accomplishment. Over the seven years he’s served as a Docent, he says it’s been a privilege to work with schoolchildren from Yonkers and surrounding towns. But “with the coming of COVID-19, our on-site, in-person work has come to a painful halt,” he says. “However, through the efforts of the Museum’s Education Department, Saralinda Lichtblau and Bridget McCormick, and the amazing dedication of the Docent group, we have been working toward restarting our contact with the schools, only virtually. I can’t wait for my first opportunity to interact with the kids again!”

In a typical year, our volunteer Docent Program is most active between the months of October and June. Docents come together to meet in-person for hands-on weekly training sessions, and lead audiences of all ages on tours of the rotating permanent collection of American art; our beloved Gilded Age historic home, Glenview; and special exhibitions of nineteenth- through twenty-first-century art. The Docents’ sense of purpose and collaboration is always evident in their work, and even more so during this difficult time when COVID-19 drastically altered the formats of their training and teaching. Despite recent challenges, the HRM Docents have gone above and beyond, pivoting enthusiastically to the virtual realm and finding ways to bolster the camaraderie and community that make them such an integral part of the Hudson River Museum.

In April, the Docents began attending virtual meetings, preparing for distance learning, and supporting each other emotionally through live virtual “happy hours” in real time. Though the program typically adjourns for summer recess, this year the Docents took the initiative to continue meeting biweekly from June through October, with small teams working together to develop and present programs on various topics, with the support of Education Staff. And in the fall, Docents Loretta Poole and Jack Noel oversaw a successful and generous donation drive within the cohort that led to the raising of close to $2,000 in support of the Museum.

At the beginning of the new school year, the Docents began to build on the work they had done over the summer, engaging in professional development sessions with HRM Staff and invited guests, academics, and artists. When the Museum recommenced on-site socially distanced tours of Glenview, many Docents jumped in to work with Visitor Services Staff in making these tours possible.

We launched the first of our series of virtual tours for the public facilitated by Docents in late 2020. We cannot thank them enough for their willingness to jump in and try out something new, and expand the Museum’s range of diverse program offerings. Our first Docent virtual tour for 2021 was “Glenview’s Greatest Hits,” and on February 24th at 1:30pm, Docents will introduce audiences to recent additions to the exhibition Landscape Art and Virtual Travel. We hope to see you there!