A volunteer docent
The Barnes Foundation

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering at the Barnes provides unique access to the collections, programs, and staff, as well as opportunities to enjoy camaraderie with fellow art, horticulture, and education enthusiasts. The Barnes has different types of volunteer positions with varied levels of training, time commitments, and background requirements.

The Barnes is now accepting applications for a range of volunteers supporting the following departments in our Philadelphia location:

  • Administration
  • Archives, Libraries, and Special Collections
  • Communications
  • Development
  • Education
  • Family Programs
  • Group Sales
  • Membership
  • Publications
  • Public Programs
  • Visitor Services


Volunteer qualifications:

  • Communicate actively and well
  • Be flexible and adapt to changes
  • Be able to to work in a dynamic environment with visitors of all ages and abilities and Barnes staff and volunteers from diverse backgrounds
  • Be well prepared, dependable, and punctual


Volunteer obligations:

  • Complete the training program
  • Adhere to all Barnes Foundation volunteer guidelines
  • Have a valid e-mail address and reliable access to the internet
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete the volunteer training program

To read descriptions of each volunteer opportunity, click here. Apply online.

School Group Guides

School Group Guides deliver and facilitate lessons for students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade in the galleries of the Barnes Foundation. The ideal guide has experience implementing programs in museum settings or  teaching in pre-K–12 classrooms, though experience is not required. Must be able to lead a minimum of four pre-K–12 programs each month during the academic year and commit to at least two years of service as a School Group Guide.

School Group Guide applications are typically accepted in the spring and summer for training beginning in the fall. Learn more and apply online.

Arboretum volunteers

The only qualification for arboretum volunteers is an interest in gardening. Get your hands dirty while weeding, mulching, and pruning, or help with our annual plant sale. This is a great opportunity to learn new skills or hone the ones you have, and to work with rare and beautiful plants. Arboretum volunteers can work year-round, Tuesdays through Thursdays between 8 am and 4 pm.

Learn more and apply online.

Garden Guides

Garden Guides give tours and provide interpretation of the living collections for visitors to the Barnes Arboretum. Successful completion of the Barnes Horticulture Education program is preferred but not required. After successful completion of guide training, Garden Guides must commit to leading tours for two years and attend monthly continuing education meetings.  

Learn more and apply online.


Docents serve the needs and interests of our visitors, creating welcoming and informative educational experiences in our galleries. 

No prior art history background or work experience is required of docents; however, those wishing to volunteer should be comfortable working and communicating with the public. Docent applicants attend the Foundation’s Art and Aesthetics courses and undergo extensive, rigorous training to learn the highest standards of content and presentation.

All accepted applicants for the docent program are required to attend a six-month training course to learn the theories of Dr. Barnes, the history of art as it applies to the collection, presentation skills, and research techniques. Training classes are held on Tuesdays. Volunteering in the docent program requires a high degree of motivation and dedication, and a minimum commitment of at least three years. The experience is highly rewarding.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to take a docent-led tour at the Barnes before applying.

Applicants must be available to train during the 2016–2017 docent training program, which starts in the fall of 2016.

Docent qualifications (in addition to the general volunteer qualifications listed at the top of this page):

Once accepted, the obligations of a Barnes docent (in addition to the general volunteer obligations listed at the top of this page) are:

  • Successful completion of the docent training program
  • Commitment to providing at least 60 hours of volunteer service per year, for at least three years
  • Availability during a combination of weekday, weekend, and evening hours
  • Adherence to all guidelines in the Barnes Foundation docent handbook

Docent applications are typically accepted from July through October. For more information, call 215.278.7216 or e-mail Volunteer and Gallery Guide Manager Pamela Birmingham.

Learn more and apply online.


If you have questions about the Barnes's volunteer opportunities, call 215.278.7216.

Core Values

Discover what makes the Barnes Foundation a unique place to work and volunteer.