Things are not always as they seem. Or at least things are not always as they seem from our perspective. In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice steps through the mirror to find a world on the surface much like her own yet in many ways unrecognizable. Using this idea as inspiration when planning our Quarterly Docent Meeting this past January, we wanted the Docents to see things out of context and from a fresh perspective. This was not only intended as a challenge for our experienced Docents, but a way to elevate our new Docent class, who just completed their orientation series at the end of December.
Being the first Quarterly Docent Meeting in which these two groups would come together, it was important to find activities where both could equally contribute. Our meeting began with introductions and various “get to know you” activities including a questionnaire that contained interesting facts about the Docents, requiring them to ask their colleagues for more personal information. They were then encouraged to break into groups including a mix of new and more experienced Docents for our next two activities, both of which required a view of things out of context.
In an activity we referred to as “Restoring Missing Contexts” each group was assigned a popular object from the museum’s second floor gallery, one that would be familiar to them through trainings, literature, or use on their own tours. They were then encouraged to look at that object through the eyes of a first-time visitor exploring the various contexts in which it would be located (both inside and outside a museum setting). This exploration is important for museum educators to be better prepared when introducing new visitors to our collection. It also helps provide them with an understanding of the various religious contexts of these objects outside of the museum walls.
Our final activity was a museum “Scavenger Hunt” in which each group was handed a set of envelopes containing a closely cropped image of one of the objects from each floor of the museum along with a set of cryptic clues intended to lead them to the next object. Identifying an artwork from a small subsection with few hints involves close looking and good teamwork.
Together our Docents were able to successfully traverse the Looking Glass and prove that with a little teamwork, anything is possible.