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Museum people helping other museum people be
better museum people.


  • Tours are key to providing education to the public and are one of the best ways to get your visitors involved and engaged with your museum. A successful tour is much more than speaking at your guests, it has them responding, sharing their own knowledge, and asking questions. An engaged group is much more likely to return than one that is simply spoken to. Consider some of our tips for a successful tour experience below:

  • When beginning a tour, a docent should introduce themselves, provide some background on the museum, and ensure their guests feel welcomed. Sometimes if the group is small enough asking the group members where they are from, or for another small fact can help lighten the mood and engage the visitors.
  • Paint a picture for the visitor of how long the tour is to last and what it is they might expect to see along the way. This helps to keep happy with time expectations and what their visit will look like with you. 
  • Consider your audience and what their prior knowledge may be on the topics you will be covering. Consider the following: do you have mostly students, or older adults coming to see your exhibit? It is important to be able to match tours to the demographic and make it appealing to what their interests are and ask about their existing knowledge.
    • If you don’t know what your audience’s knowledge of your exhibit is, it is okay to ask them. This can help elevate your tour from a beginner to a more advanced tour if needed.
  • Know your exhibit and be prepared to answer questions along the way. If you don’t know the answer, that is okay. It is better to be honest and let them know you will help them find that answer. You could seek help from a fellow colleague after the tour is over or direct them to another resource if needed. Ask your audience questions and keep the questions open ended. It is best to avoid yes or no questions.
  • Have fun with your audience and tell stories about objects that make the content more accessible. This can help bridge the gap for visitors where they might feel like they can’t relate to the material.
    • Visitors can become overwhelmed with information, it is important to remember that not everything you know about the exhibit or museum has to be said. Consider your audience and keep it to their interests and the most important facts they need to know. 
  • If your museum allows photography, it can be good to encourage group photos for memories and share them online. Consider asking them to tag your museum in the photo.
  • Know the museum’s key information such as, address, phone number, hours of operation, gift shop, restrooms, water fountains, and seating areas, including for those with disabilities.  
    • Know the location of any emergency exits, fire extinguishers, and medical supplies like AEDs.
  • Consider practicing your tour with a colleague or fellow volunteer to ensure your tours are the best they can be. Creative criticism can be very valuable in building the best experience possible for your guests. 

Sources & Further Reading:

Illinois Association of Museums
P.O. Box 31155

Chicago, IL 60631


Email: illinoismuseums@gmail.com


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