Today is Monday, April 22, 2024 The Water Taxi is not running.

Docent Academy

Working with a select group of respected scholars and noted experts, the team at Thames River Heritage Park designed the Docent Academy for passionate life-long learners like you with an in-depth examination of the places, people, and events that have shaped life along the Thames and our region to make the heritage and culture of the Thames River region vivid and relevant.

Created for those who understand the value of life-long learning and who believe that every excursion is also an opportunity to engage the mind, the presentations and site tours in the 10-week program offer a variety of intriguing heritage sites and subjects to explore.

The Docent Academy is fashioned around our core beliefs:

  • Every session should engage the mind and thoughtful inquiry
  • A gifted, inspiring and passionate teacher is the best guide
  • Small, diverse, intellectually curious and engaged groups foster a stimulating experience
  • Through critical thinking, history can open our minds and help us to better understand our present.

NEW Start Date

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 marks the start of Thames River Heritage Park’s third Docent Academy – a 10-week, highly-acclaimed program on the history and heritage of the Thames – on Wednesdays from 9 AM – 12:30 PM. A collaborative effort by Thames River Heritage Park Foundation and the heritage sites that comprise the Park – Avery-Copp House MuseumBill Memorial LibraryEbenezer Avery HouseFort Griswold Battlefield State Park, Fort Trumbull State Park, Garde Arts CenterHempsted HousesLyman Allyn Art MuseumMonte Cristo CottageNathan Hale School HouseOld Town MillNL Black Heritage TrailShaw Mansion/NL County Historical Society, Submarine Force Library and Museum / USS NautilusThames River Heritage Park Docent Academy features several weeks of lively and informative talks and presentations, combined with site visits to each participating site.

View the weekly schedule for the 2024 Docent Academy and read testimonials from the Class of 2023

At the conclusion of the 10-session academy, each participant will volunteer to serve at least one partner site of their choice, for a minimum of 4 hours/month. Site-specific orientation and training is scheduled on an individual basis by the host site. Graduates are asked to commit to a year of volunteer time.

TRHP Docent Academy FAQ

Who is should attend the program? Anyone with a love of history/heritage, a commitment to contribute their time and talent to support education, tourism and economic development in the community, a desire to learn more about the people and events which shaped the region.

What are Docents? Docents are trained volunteers who serve as guides and educators who engage visitors in an active discussion about heritage sites – the treasures within and the stories of those who contributed to their history. The English word itself is derived from the Latin word docēre, to teach.

Where will the program be held? 
The sessions will be held at heritage sites throughout the Park.

How much does the program cost?
The registration fee for the program is $150 ($15 per session) and includes visits and tours of heritage sites, stimulating presentations, Interpreter’s Guide to the Thames River Heritage Park, and the opportunity to reunite with long-time and make new friends. 

If I am interested in the program and uncomfortable serving as a docent, may I still participate?
Absolutely! The program is intended to familiarize you to the Park’s heritage sites and their stories. It is a precursor to more in-depth docent training at the heritage sites. If serving as docent is not a right fit for you, then there are plenty of other volunteer roles at the heritage sites or with Thames River Heritage Park Foundation.

Where and what types of volunteer services are Docent Academy alumni providing?

  • Avery-Copp House Museum: transcribing archives, gardening, serving as docents
  • Fort Griswold and Trumbull State Parks: Serving as docents for school groups and museum shop clerks
  • New London County Historical Society / Shaw Mansion: researching historical data, serving as docents for tours
  • Garde Arts Center: serving as ticket scanners and ushers 
  • Cedar Grove Cemetery: serving as board members and tour guides
  • Nathan Hale School House Museum: serving as docents
  • NL Custom House Maritime Museum: serving as docents, store clerks and on the board of directors
  • NL Old Town Mill: serving as gardeners
  • Thames River Heritage Park: serving as history tour interpreters; greeters, ambassadors for boat tours, lecture series and Docent Academy; program and administrative support
  • AND more …

Do I need to participate in the Docent Academy in order to volunteer or serve as a docent at one of the Park’s heritage sites?
No. The Docent Academy is an invitation to learn about all of the heritage sites in the Park. If you are interested in volunteering at one of the Park’s heritage sites, please contact the site(s) directly.

Are the sites handicap accessible?
While several of the sites are handicap accessible, regretfully the majority of the historic sites have limited access or may pose challenging for those with mobility difficulties.

Docent Academy 2024 Flyer

TRHPF Photo & Video Disclaimer

Thames River Heritage Park Docent Academy is made possible thanks to grant funding from the State of Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection,  Connecticut Humanities and Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut; scholarship funding from New London Cultural District Commission and Groton Utilities; and sponsors and donors – people like you who support Thames River Heritage Park Foundation.

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