By Martha Nodar
After a two-year break, the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is restarting its docent program with a group of local volunteers, including students, scholars and retirees.
Although the docents, trained to guide tours through the museum, had been Sunday afternoon icons at OUMA in years past, the program came to a halt during the transition between museum administrations.
Brookhaven resident Sandy Murray, a museum member for 10 years, welcomed the docents back.
“We always enjoyed having the docents in the past, and have been missing them for a while during the transition between the previous and the current museum administrations,” Murray said. “The docents added so much value to the exhibitions. We benefit from their knowledge and experience. They walk us through it and point out things of interest.”
Murray emphasized that learning about the history and the background of a work of art adds meaning to the museum experience.
Jay Lutz, a member of the museum’s board and Oglethorpe’s French professor, said that he “believed the museum went through a period where there were fewer people available due to personal circumstances, making it difficult to provide the staffing.”
“I believe the docent program is currently being reinstated in part, due to the interest of a number of people who have experience and expertise in bird watching, and therefore a particular interest in the Audubon exhibition.”
An exhibition of John James Audubon’s bird prints called “John James Audubon: Swift Birds of Passage,” is on display at OUMA through August 23.
Jessica Gregerson, a rising senior at Oglethorpe and one of the new docents, said she wanted to serve as a docent for the new exhibition because it gives her a chance to combine her interest in ecology with art.
Gregerson is pursuing a degree in conservation biology, which she called “the science of trying to reduce the human impact on our natural resources,” and says the Audubon exhibit gives her an opportunity to raise awareness about birds. “I researched over 30 species of birds in the span of four months and wrote the labels posted next to each print,” she said.
Gregerson will be guiding the tours and sharing her knowledge with museum patrons on June 28 and Aug. 2. Looking farther ahead, Lutz said some of his students are gearing up to guide the tours for other exhibitions later this year
The Audubon prints also attracted the interest of members of Atlanta’s Audubon Society (AAS), a conservation group. Nikki Belmonte, the executive director of the Buckhead-based society, credits society member Susan Gibbs of Brookhaven—who is also a OUMA board member—with “suggesting that AAS be contacted to partner on the exhibit.”
As the result, several docents for the exhibit are Audubon society master birders. “We are excited to help Oglethorpe with its Audubon exhibit,” Belmonte said.
Museum patrons said they appreciate the additional expertise the docents bring to the museum.
“Having a knowledgeable guide enhances the experience of appreciating the art,” said museum visitor Liz Willis of Sandy Springs.
Docent tours are offered at 2 pm on Sundays. For more, click here