An Introduction To The Oroville City Docent Program
What is a docent?
A docent is defined as “a lecturer or teacher who is not a regular faculty member .” The word “docent” comes from the Latin verb “docere” meaning “to teach.” We use the term within this group to refer to everyone who volunteers at the museums.
What types of activities are there?
There are many different things for Docents to do, and a few Docents do all of them! What you will do depends on your interests, and how much time you can give to the group. The following list of activities is long, in hopes that ONE (or two) of them might interest you. Docents; staff the museums during open hours, conduct tours, document artifacts and update the inventory, run a gift shop, help with yearly cleaning, assist the museum staff on special projects, cook food, throw parties, go on field trips, do mending and sewing, create displays, usher at performing arts events and some even do a bit of gardening and landscaping.
What is expected of a docent?
Docents are expected to volunteer at least six hours a month (That’s less than one day a month!). They should develop a basic knowledge of objects in each of the museums, although they may choose to specialize and work only in their museum of interest. As tour guides, Docents interact with the museum’s visitors to see that they have a good memorable experience. When serving as a museum greeter, Docents also collect admission fees and hand out souvenir tickets. Some docents update the museum records using a computer inventory program, others write columns for newspapers, or assist with other special projects (example: the Annual Craft Sale at the Lott Home/Sank Park).
Docents are the Oroville Cultural Facilities’ ambassadors, and are expected to be helpful and friendly to the visitors. The docent dress code in the Docent Handbook defines the appropriate attire required for each facility. Occasionally there are opportunities for historical re-enactment and living history that might also require proper costumes or props.
What are the benefits of becoming a Docent?
There are many reasons people join us, some just like to “get out of the house” for a few hours! The docents are a friendly group, and enjoy going on short trips together to see other museums and attractions. They also get together for social times after their bi-monthly meetings, and can they cook! When you give tours, you meet new people from all over the world, and get to learn how they see us and our history. There is also that feeling of accomplishment that you are keeping a bit of the past alive for the future.
How do I become a docent?
Stop by any of the museums or the Centennial Cultural Center (on the levee between the Centennial Plaza and the Municipal Auditorium) and ask for a Docent Application pack, or call the office at 538-2497. It’s that easy!
How are the volunteer work times arranged?
Volunteer time scheduling is usually done by a docent who has been chosen by the Docent Association to be the scheduler. The scheduler is assisted by the city staff to coordinate volunteer work times with group tours or other special events. Work schedules are prepared monthly. Usually docents are “on duty” for a four-hour period when staffing a facility. Group Tour duties vary from one to two hours, and occasionally last up to three hours.
What to expect from the City:
The City staff opens and closes the museums, books tours and events, performs weekly maintenance and cleaning at the museums, provides materials for work parties, conducts periodic training sessions, holds recognition ceremonies, and provides Worker’s Compensation should a docent be injured during volunteer duty.
II. The Museums
There are six separate locations comprising the Oroville City cultural facilities: Bolt’s Antique Tool Museum, Lott Home in Sank Park, the Chinese Temple Complex & Museum, Butte County Pioneer Memorial Museum, the Feather River Nature Center, and the Oroville State Theater Performing Arts Center.
Each location has its own unique character and personality. While every docent needs to know a bit about each one, they are not expected to be experts on all of them, and will likely find their niche in one or two of the locations.
- Chinese Temple and Museum Complex: This 1863 temple complex was acquired in 1937 and opened to the public in 1949. It is one of the most intact, complete gold-rush era temples in California. The modern Tapestry Hall and Cullie Room additions display a large collection of original and acquired artifacts. The Fong Lee building displays the Chan family’s herb & gold purchasing store and family home.
- Pioneer History Museum: Built in 1932 and operated by the Native Daughters of the Golden West until 1999, the museum concentrates its collection on the pre 1900 settlement of California, with an emphasis on the Butte County area.
- C.F. Lott Home: Donated to the city in 1962, this 1856 home tells the story of life in those times, and of the Lott family history. The surrounding city block, of gardens and walkways, is known as “Sank Park” and is used for weddings, receptions, and many other events.
- Bolt’s Antique Tool Museum: Opened in May, 2006, this museum features tools of all kinds, the main portion from Bud Bolt’s collection. The development of industrial technology is brought to life with this amazing collection.
- Feather River Nature Center: Created around the 1930's Bath house that was abandoned in 1937, the area was restored and developed in 1996. The Bath House hosts an art and museum gallery; while the grounds feature native plants and a picnic area.
- State Theatre Performing Arts Center: A nationally registered historic 1928 proscenium arch style vaudeville movie palace, serving as the community’s Performing Arts Center since 1987. The city sponsors from five to eight events yearly, and it is rented by others often. The Artists of Rivertown use the Lobby as an art gallery that is usually open Tuesdays thru Saturdays.