Volunteer Program

Volunteers play an essential role in inspiring and engaging our audiences and supporting behind-the-scenes work. Volunteers greet and welcome visitors, provide information and tours, and support staff in a variety of functions.
Leah L. Jones for The National Museum of African American History and Culture

Opportunities

The museum has several volunteer programs. Please continue to check our website for recruitment updates regarding our other volunteer programs.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can! Become a Children’s Program Volunteer and enhance the museum experience for our youngest visitors and their caregivers at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Early Childhood Education Initiative supports the understanding and development of each child’s healthy racial identity, their joy in human diversity and inclusion, their sense of justice, and their capacity to act for their own and others’ fair treatment. Volunteers will contribute to this mission by assisting with children’s programs that include music performances, story times, infant and toddler programs, community and family events, hands-on and craft activities and more.

REQUIRED SKILLS & ABILITIES

  • Previous experience in working with diverse families, students, and/or children, ages 0 to 8, in an educational or community-based environment. 
  • Commitment to implementing anti-bias education programs in a museum environment in age appropriate ways.
  • Interest in history and early childhood education.
  • Foreign language skills are helpful but not required.

All abilities are welcome. We have different roles available for individuals based on their physical abilities.

  • Background check is required
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Complete trainings led by museum described below


SCHEDULING REQUIREMENTS

  • Minimum commitment of 1 year
  • Suggested volunteer commitment of 2 programs/month (averaging to 4 – 6 hours monthly)
  • Weekday availability is preferred, but not required for eligibility. Most programs take place weekday mornings and early afternoons. (Tuesday through Thursday, 10am to 12pm)
  • Throughout the year, there will also be 2nd Saturday and 3rd Sunday programs monthly with quarterly Saturday family day events.

TRAINING

  • In-person training workshops on select Saturdays, starting May 2020. Content will include anti-bias education, child development, and methods in museum education.
  • Smithsonian Protection of Minors Training is required.

HOW DO I APPLY?

  • The application deadline is March 14, 2020.  Due to the large number of applications we receive, only those selected to participate in the program will be contacted.  Unfortunately, due to the large number of applications we receive, only those selected to participate in the program will be contacted. 
  • New volunteers must apply and set-up an new account in our Smithsonian Volunteer Management System (Vsys).   If you already have an account, login and apply.

Doing Good Does You Good!  Program Volunteers support and contribute to the successful undertaking of the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s public programs, educator programs, and conferences. Volunteers represent the Museum and the Smithsonian Institution to the public at these programs.

VOLUNTEER DUTIES

  • Public Program Volunteers help with the following:
  • Facilitating set-up prior to the program
  • Welcoming arriving visitors
  • Checking-in visitors
  • Scanning tickets
  • Line management
  • Distributing handouts
  • Answering visitor inquiries
  • Providing directions
  • Distributing and collecting evaluations
  • Facilitating break-down and clean-up
  • Escorting program participants and their guests to seats or staff
  • Assisting staff where needed and undertaking special assignments related to the event or program  Preparing program materials
  • Assisting with Q&A sessions and serving as timekeeper
  • Behind-the-Scenes assistance
  • Working with children & families to facilitate programs

DESIRED SKILLS & ABILITIES

  • Must be welcoming
  • Able to problem-solve
  • Provide excellent customer service
  • Be comfortable or willing to learn to use an iPad and visitor evaluation techniques
  • Ability to react quickly and solve problems
  • Foreign language skills are helpful but not required
  • Volunteers should possess the following qualities:
  • Welcoming personality and enthusiasm for working with the museum’s diverse visitors
  • Strong interpersonal skills – must be able to make each visitor feel welcome, impart relevant information and resolve problems
  • Interest in African American History and Culture
  • Ability to work with a team enthusiastically, dependably and flexibly
  • Ability to react quickly and solve problems or recognize when to contact a staff person
  • Follow all museum policy even during difficult situations and problematic visitors
  •  Must be able to lift up to 10lbs​

REQUIREMENTS

  • All abilities are welcome.
  • Background check is required
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Completion of volunteer training

TRAINING

  • The training program will be comprised of in-person and online sessions. Training includes directed and independent study; lectures and demonstrations by museum educators and experts; activities; and on-the-job experience.  These sessions will also be taught in connection with the Smithsonian Institution office of Visitor Services and the Office of Protection Services.

SCHEDULING

  • Volunteers must commit to at least TWO years of service including the successful completion of a comprehensive training based on customer service and an introduction to the museum’s content. Continued volunteer service is subject to yearly performance reviews.
  •  Public programs take place weekdays and weekends, during the Museum’s regular hours of operation and in the evenings.  Schedules and frequencies are dependent on a number of factors.  As a result, volunteers will not be held to a consistent schedule but will be expected to serve at least 2 events per quarter.
  • All public, educator and classroom programs will be scheduled consistently, and volunteer schedules and time commitments will be subject to change. 

HOW DO I APPLY?

  • We are not accepting applications currently.  Please continue to check our website for recruitment updates.

Things get solved if you get involved!  Apply to become a docent at the National Museum of African American History and Culture!  Docents are volunteer facilitators who provide group learning experiences in the form of museum tours, demonstrations, or instruction in special activity areas.  They are an essential link between the public and the Museum. 

DOCENT VOLUNTEER DUTIES

Docents engage visitors to the museum by:

  • Interpreting the Museum’s collections
  • Communicating directly with visitors, including the general public, special-interest groups, VIPs, and people with diverse learning style and abilities 

Docents must also work in concert with staff and volunteers of the Museum to:

  • Present interpretive programs as designed by the Education Department’s Office of Audience Engagement in a manner consistent with the tour program goals and objectives
  • Implement and practice effective teaching strategies in a museum setting, that includes discussion, storytelling, verbal description, and working with teaching objects
  • Attend additional in-service and volunteer enrichment training sessions offered throughout the year
  • Accept periodic evaluation of tours in a spirit of cooperation
  • Maintain an attitude of flexibility and respect in relationships with peers and staff
  • Function, always, within the guidelines and procedures of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of African American History and Culture 

DESIRED SKILLS & ABILITIES

  • Volunteers should have an interest in American history and culture and a thirst for knowledge and lifelong learning
  • Volunteers must have excellent speaking and communication skills and be active listeners
  • Volunteers must enjoy speaking to a variety of visitors and groups of all sizes
  • Volunteers must remain calm when faced with the unanticipated and think quickly on their feet
  • Retired educators, public and community historians welcome
  • Fluency in American Sign Language and other second languages are helpful but not required
  • Interpretation and/or experience conducting tours is a bonus

REQUIREMENTS

  • A background check for prospective volunteers is required
  • Volunteer must be 18 years of age or older
  • Complete of volunteer training

TRAINING

  • Docents are highly trained on the content of each exhibition.  The Museum’s new docent orientation and training is comprised of weekly classroom/workshop sessions, readings, self & group-exploration activities, and a certification examination and video that occur over the course of 9 months to a year.
  • Accepted applicants must be available for and attend orientation and training classes that are specific to this volunteer position
  • Trainees are expected to shadow tours outside of class
  • Accepted applicants must successfully complete the required training course(s), homework assignments, and tour evaluation  

SCHEDULING

  • Upon successful completion of the training course, a minimum commitment of 2 years of service is expected
  • Docents volunteer 2 shifts (averaging 8 -10 hours) per month. Morning (9am – 1:30pm) and afternoon (1:00pm – 5:30pm) volunteer shifts are available seven days a week.  Filling afternoon shifts is a high priority for the museum

HOW DO I APPLY?

We are not accepting applications currently.  Please continue to check our website for recruitment updates.

If You See a Need, Take the Lead!  Become a Special Events Volunteer.  You can support and contribute to the successful undertaking of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s private events!

VOLUNTEER DUTIES

Volunteers will facilitate events by assisting with the following:

  • Setting-up Welcome Desk prior to the event
  • Welcoming arriving guests
  • Checking-in guests
  • Distributing maps, programs, and/or handouts related to the event
  • Providing wayfinding and answering visitor inquiries
  • Distributing and collecting comment cards towards the conclusion of the event
  • Facilitating break-down and clean-up of the Welcome Desk
  • Assisting staff where needed

DESIRED SKILLS & ABILITIES

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Discretion, even with high profile guests or public figures
  • Flexibility in changing situations
  • Promptness
  • Ability to react quickly and solve problems
  • Foreign language skills helpful but not required

REQUIREMENTS

  • All abilities are welcome.
  • Background check is required
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Completion of volunteer training

TRAINING

  • The training program will be comprised of in-person and online sessions. Training includes directed and independent study; lectures and demonstrations by museum educators and experts; activities; and on-the-job experience.  These sessions will also be taught in connection with the Smithsonian Institution Office of Visitor Services and the Office of Protection Services.

SCHEDULING

  • Volunteers must commit to at least two years of service including the successful completion of a comprehensive training based on customer service and an introduction to the museum’s content. 
  • The majority of Special Events are scheduled on weekday evenings, with the occasional weekend events. We are looking for volunteers who have availability between 5:30PM and 11PM on weekday evenings and 7AM-10AM on weekday mornings.
  • Volunteers will be expected to serve at least 2 events per quarter. 

HOW DO I APPLY?

  • We are not accepting applications currently.  Please continue to check our website for recruitment updates.

Visitor Information Volunteers create opportunities for visitors to engage with the museum’s content in a meaningful way. As part of the Office of Visitor and Guest Services, Visitor Information Volunteers greet and welcome visitors, encourage an exploration of the museum’s exhibitions and daily program offerings, and provide information about surrounding attractions. Volunteers are stationed at the Welcome Desk and strategically throughout the museum to serve as a resource to visitors who require orientation, information and emotional assistance.

Volunteer Duties  

  • Introducing and welcoming visitors to the National Museum of African American History and Culture 
  • Responding to inquiries, comments and feedback from diverse audiences clearly, courteously and effectively 
  • Providing information about the Smithsonian Institution, NMAAHC and its exhibitions, and daily program offerings, as well as surrounding attractions 
  • Using knowledge of museum content to guide visitor learning in the museum’s public spaces 
  • Initiating and facilitating conversations and using objects to spark new questions and ideas from visitors in exhibitions 
  • Using available resources including computers, iPads, colleagues, and print resources to answer visitor questions, concerns and comments 
  • Resolving most issues that arise from visitors or escalating problems to the attention of volunteer managers when appropriate/necessary 
  • Staffing exhibitions, public spaces and exterior museum areas as needed to engage the public in conversation and provide wayfinding assistance  
  • Understanding the Museum’s crowd management protocols and queuing plans in order to direct visitors appropriately during periods of high visitation   
  • Assisting with the facilitation of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences to visitors  

Desired Skills and Abilities  

  • Flexible and willing to adapt to quickly changing situations  
  • Reliable and willing to meet requirements and expectations set by Museum staff  
  • An interest in African American history and culture and an eagerness to learn something new every day 
  • Able to utilize computers, iPads, and other technology to assist visitors  
  • Enthusiasm for working with the museum’s diverse audiences 
  • Demonstratable interpersonal skills or customer services experience – must be able to make each visitor feel welcome, impart relevant museum content, and resolve problems 
  • Comfort and confidence speaking to groups of all sizes  
  • Ability to work with a team  
  • Ability to solve problems or recognize when to contact a staff person 
  • Able to stand for long periods of time  
  • Foreign language or ASL skills are not required but a plus 

Requirements 

  • All abilities are welcome. 
  • Background check is required 
  • Must be 18 years of age or older 
  • Volunteers must attend all training sessions 

Scheduling 

The monthly time commitment is two four-hour shifts (8hrs) each month. Continued volunteer service is subject to meeting this time commitment and maintaining performance in line with volunteer requirements.  Volunteers must commit to at least two years of service as a Visitor Information Volunteer before they may seek additional volunteer opportunities within NMAAHC. 

Training 

Training includes directed and independent study; lectures and demonstrations by NMAAHC staff and other experts; activities; and on-the-job experience.  

How do I apply?  

We are not recruiting Visitor Information Volunteers at this time. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Due to overwhelming interest, we are unable to respond to individual public inquiry.

We plan to offer a Virtual Volunteer Program. Please indicate your interest in that when you sign up for volunteer opportunity alerts.

Volunteer positions do not transition into permanent positions. If you are seeking employment, please monitor announcements on the Smithsonian Institution Office of Human Resources website and apply via USA Jobs.

At this time the NMAAHC is unable to accept submissions for activities, exhibitions, programs, publications, and tours.

The Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs (OEEMA) ensures compliance with regulatory guidelines and Institutional policies as they relate to diversity and equal opportunity; the office provides direction, oversight, facilitation, and reports on all aspects of equal opportunity (EO) in the Smithsonian Institution's employment and business relationships.

Learn more about the Smithsonian’s EEO policy.

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.

Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Activist