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Museum: More volunteers needed to meet public demand

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Errol Reiner, Peterson Air & Space Museum docent, interacts with visitors at the museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017. There are currently 28 docents volunteering at the museum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Errol Reiner, Peterson Air & Space Museum docent, interacts with visitors at the museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017. There are currently 28 docents volunteering at the museum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Errol Reiner, Peterson Air & Space Museum docent, shows and explains historic items and their significance to museum visitors at the museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017. Roughly 20,000 military and civilian visitors make their way to the museum annually. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Errol Reiner, Peterson Air & Space Museum docent, shows and explains historic items and their significance to museum visitors at the museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017. Roughly 20,000 military and civilian visitors make their way to the museum annually. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Gus Freyer, Peterson Air & Space Museum docent, showcases various Air Force patches on his docent vest at the museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017. Docents lead individuals, families, school and other tour groups through the complex, telling the recorded history of the base and its role in the nation’s military history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Gus Freyer, Peterson Air & Space Museum docent, showcases various Air Force patches on his docent vest at the museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017. Docents lead individuals, families, school and other tour groups through the complex, telling the recorded history of the base and its role in the nation’s military history. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Meeting visitor demand for tours of the Peterson Air & Space Museum requires a ready team of volunteers. Museum staff is looking to bolster its group of tour guides, or docents, by recruiting more volunteers to help share Air Force and Peterson Air Force Base history.

Roughly 20,000 military and civilian visitors make their way to the museum, one of 11 field museums showcasing a specific aspect of the AF, annually. That amounts to the capacity of Madison Square Garden making the trip through the museum complex every year.

There are 28 docents now accounting for three or four on duty each day the facility is in operation, but Gail Whalen, Peterson Air & Space Museum director, wants to bump that number up significantly.

“We need to have five or six docents a day to take care of things,” she said. “We want to increase the number up to about 40 docents.”

Whalen said increasing the number of volunteer docents facilitates a greater availability for the public and allows the museum to do its part in fulfilling the mission of the 21st Space Wing and the AF.

Docents lead individuals, families, school and other tour groups through the complex, telling the recorded history of the base and its role in the nation’s military history, said Jeff Nash, Peterson Air & Space Museum assistant director. They lead, teach and inform.

The job is an active one, Whalen said, calling for docents to walk around the airpark while leading tours.

“They need to be able to physically navigate the museum complex,” said Whalen. “We want to bring more students in over the next couple of years, so they need to interact with kids and adults.”

Docents receive training before leading tours on their own. After attending three Saturday classes they launch into the visitor/docent experience, said Whalen.

“Some have knowledge from their military careers, but they also learn more,” Nash said. “We want them to be able to tell the story accurately and not just their personal versions. It’s not just the Air Force story, but the story of those who served in the nation’s defense, as well as the story of the Air Force space mission and Colorado Springs’ part in it.”

Many volunteers look at the job as an opportunity to give back to the community, especially those who did not serve in the military themselves, she said.

Potential docents do not need military experience, but they do need to be at least 18 years old and undergo a background check. Good docents are also energetic, respectful, friendly and good communicators. Volunteers can also serve in the museum gift shop.

“This is the only experience some visitors have with the military,” said Whalen, “So they are representatives of the Air Force and that’s important!”

A typical volunteer day is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but hours are flexible. The greatest need for docents is Friday and Saturday, Whalen said. She would like volunteers to serve at least once a week.

“Peterson Air & Space Museum is an Air Force field museum,” Whalen said. “But we can’t do it without our volunteers. They keep our heritage mission alive.”

For more information on volunteering, or for an application, call (719) 556-4915 or visit www.petemuseum.org.

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