Tour Guides

Become a Volunteer Tour Guide at VMFA!

VMFA will begin accepting applications to become a Volunteer Tour Guide (the position formerly known as “Docent”) beginning Monday, July 22, 2019 through Sunday, September 15, 2019. For this recruitment, Tour Guides will (initially) be trained to tour an upcoming special exhibition titled Egypt: Sunken Cities (on view May 2020-January 2021). Please read through the description of the volunteer role, requirements, timeline, etc. before filling out an application.

Two separate, on-site informational sessions will take place during the month of August 2019 (during the application process). Anyone interested in learning more about the VMFA Tour Guide Program and/or how to apply can join us for one of these on-site sessions (there is no requirement to attend). The sessions will take place as follows:

Saturday, August 24, 2019, from Noon – 2 pm (Pauley Center Parlor; more details coming soon)
Friday, August 30, 2019, from 6 pm – 8 pm (Claiborne Robertson Room; more details coming soon)

To see a 2019 VMFA Tour Guide Recruitment & Provisional Training Timeline click here.

Questions? Contact Tour Services at or (804)340-1435.

What is a VMFA Tour Guide?

VMFA Tour Guides are trained volunteers dedicated to connecting with our visitors through facilitated, shared gallery experiences centered on the visual arts. Falling within our Interpretation Department, they are an integral part of the Education Division and are often referred to as “frontline staff” or ambassadors of the Museum. Our Tour Guides are trained on facilitation values based on a learner-driven experience, where guests are guided through the process of looking, exploring, and discussing art. VMFA Tour Guides must have excellent customer service skills and be able to engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds with an emphasis on a visitor-centered facilitation style. The facilitation style focuses on engagement through dialogue, an exchange of knowledge between guide and visitor, and helping participants explore critical, creative, and reflective thinking skills.

What are some of the things VMFA Tour Guides do?

  • Facilitate learner-centered experiences through art from across time and culture for both students and adults.
  • Inspire a love of art and shape memorable experiences at VMFA.
  • Facilitate discovery and new ways of looking and thinking about art.
  • Communicate the joy of learning through art and build confidence in expressive abilities.
  • Provide engagement tools to visitors to enhance their museum experience.
  • Assist visitors in making connections between art and life.
  • Engage with guests in exhibits and galleries using open-ended questioning and encouraging exploration and close looking.
  • Interact and communicate with the public and ensure excellent visitor experience and customer service.
  • Participate in ongoing training sessions to build and maintain facilitation and engagement skills for all ages.

What qualifications or skills do I need to become a VMFA Tour Guide?

We welcome diverse applicants with a variety of backgrounds who are eager to share their creativity and passion with visitors from all walks of life and around the world. You do not need an art, art history degree or any artistic training to be a Tour Guide! Here are some of the characteristics and experiences that we look for in our applicants:

  • Proven and positive customer service experience.
  • Willingness to learn, practice and apply various museum, education, and facilitation approaches.
  • Interest in and passion for the arts, education, and the Richmond community.
  • Experience working with people of diverse backgrounds and age ranges.
  • Willingness to collaborate with staff and fellow volunteers in shaping learning practices.

What are the requirements for acceptance into the program?

Acceptance into the VMFA Tour Guide Program is a two-part process:

  • To be accepted as a Tour Guide on a Provisional basis, you must:
    • Submit an online application.
      • NOTE: The VMFA Tour Guide program is highly competitive and all applications go through a rigorous screening process. Not all applicants will be selected for interviews.
    • Be interviewed by an education staff member [If your application is selected].
    • Undergo a security background check.
    • Have an e-mail account and check it frequently.
    • Have basic computer skills including Microsoft Word, e-mail, and the Internet.
  • To be accepted as an “actively touring” Tour Guide, you must:
    • Join and/or maintain an active museum membership.
    • Attend weekly, on-site training sessions from January 2020 to May 2020; as well as a possible training or two in the fall 2019 (dates TBD), prior to the holidays [see the timeline]. Note: tour guide training sessions are typically offered twice in one day to accommodate a variety of schedules. Sessions will focus on facilitation and touring techniques, museum education, museum information, and art historical and historical context.
    • Be willing to study outside of the regular training sessions.
    • Successfully participate in periodic practice exercises, including a final test tour, to be evaluated by education staff members. Provisional Tour Guides that pass their final test tour will go on to become Active Tour Guides.

What are the requirements once I become an Active Tour Guide?
After Provisional Tour Guides successfully pass their final test tours, they will officially graduate to Active status and will begin touring with the public through Egypt: Sunken Cities (in May 2020). Active Tour Guides are required to:

  • Lead interactive gallery experiences during your regularly-scheduled time-slot with groups of K-12 & college students, as well as adult groups. Tour slots are typically bi-weekly and consist of 2, back-to-back, 50-minute gallery experiences. Active Tour Guides are required to give 4 hours of tours per month (two days per month; two-hour shifts).
    • Prepare and deliver engaging, interactive tours.
    • Use a variety of techniques for engaging all ages in an informal learning environment/gallery setting.
    • Understand the Virginia Standards of Learning and be willing to apply progressive teaching practices to help students explore them.
    • Be comfortable leading groups of 16 people or more.
  • Continually demonstrate a willingness to collaborate with fellow Tour Guides (i.e. planning tour routes and object choices with your touring partner; being considerate of fellow Tour Guides leading a tour at the same time, and potentially in the same space, as you).
  • Continually demonstrate a willingness to collaborate with staff by remaining open to constructive criticism and showing a willingness to improve skills.
  • Attend weekly, required training sessions on Mondays (2-3 times a month), at either 9:30 am – 11:30 am or 5:45 pm – 7:45 pm, September – May; occasional summer sessions.
  • Be willing to study outside of the regular training sessions.
  • Participate in reflective practice, both as individuals and as part of a team to improve facilitation skills.
  • Agree to be evaluated on a regular basis by an education staff member and/or a fellow tour guide.
  • Be willing to give occasional extra service (i.e. Tour Guide Committee, specialized tour offerings such as VIP requests, etc.).

Apply Today!


Thank you so much for your interest in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts!