The Block Docent Diaries: What you Keep

The Block Museum Student Docent Program is made up of students from across Northwestern University that serve as the museum’s tour guides and ambassadors. In Spring 2020, the program continues online as students connect, research, and plan in support of the Museum’s mission. We reached out to this team to learn more about their current inspiration at this time.

We asked: What is something from your docent work that you’ve carried over into your life outside the Block?


Something that started in my docent work that I’ve carried over into my life is “site-specific preparation.” Before each tour, I take some time a few hours before to give a solo practice tour. I walk around the exhibition and go to the works I plan to discuss, talk to myself out loud, and try to anticipate some questions visitors might have. Being in the exhibition space really helps me feel less nervous and mentally prepare myself in a way that running the tour through my head in my room can’t. I started applying the same sort of preparation to other situations in college–if I had a presentation, I would run through it in the room the evening before; if I had a test, I would sit in my seat and study there. Something about preparing in the same place where I will be evaluated or speak helps my memory and nerves, and originally came from my work as a docent!

Nicholas Liou (Art History 2020)

From docent work into the classroom and into everyday life, being a docent has taught me that everyone is an expert in something. Being willing to have your mind changed, even in a leadership or facilitatory position, and adopting a willingness to notice something new and to be surprised is a profound gift that docent work has given me, and one I don’t take for granted.  

-Meghan Considine (Art History and Performance Studies 2020)

It’s been really awesome to be able to make connections between the art knowledge I get from docent work and the topics I learn about in my Northwestern classes. The Block’s exhibits have featured a range of time periods and cultural themes, and I’ve often found that the discussions I have in docent training or with museum visitors add nuance to the material in my academic curriculum. I once wrote a history paper that was inspired by the Caravans of Gold exhibit, and I thought it was really fulfilling to add an artistic perspective to my analysis of a historical period.

-Kristine Liao (Journalism and International Studies 2020)

I bring so much from The Block into my everyday life! Right now, I am carrying the many facilitation skills that The Block has taught me into my work for a student group that I’m a part of. As we navigate virtual meetings, the patience, consideration, and compassion that I have learned from The Block have been vital in ensuring that our conversations are always both productive and thoughtful. I have especially loved using Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) outside of a museum setting. “What do you see that makes you say that” never gets old. 

-Erin Claeys (Theater 2021)

The Block’s Community

-Janet Lee (Journalism and International Studies 2020)

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