Top docent

Florida Museum of Natural History volunteer is council's regional director

One of Annette Perry's jobs is to weekly lead two groups of school kids through exhibits at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "They love the dinosaurs," she says.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 at 11:37 p.m.
Keeping big, bouncy groups of kids focused as they're touring museum exhibits is within the expertise of docents.
Since 1987, Annette Perry has volunteered as a docent at the Florida Museum of Natural History. She leads two groups of school kids a week through the exhibits.
"I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that when the children leave the museum, they've learned something," she said.
It turns out, she'll be doing a lot more than just docenting here in Gainesville.
Perry was recently elected to serve a four-year term as the Southeast Director for the National Docent Symposium Council. The council provides an ongoing forum to promote docent education and the exchange of ideas.
Docents from museums, botanical gardens and historical sites meet at the symposium, held every two years in a U.S. or Canadian city, to discuss the role and mission of docents.
Perry will represent the 12 southeastern states and will be responsible for producing a quarterly newsletter promoting the goals and ideas of docent activities, including chairing a national committee.
"One of my duties is to contact museums that have not sent docents to the symposium in the past and get them interested in the national organization," she explained.
Perry, 68, moved to Gainesville 47 years ago. She grew up in Massachusetts and studied fashion design as a young woman before becoming a homemaker and raising three daughters. She said she plans to continue working as a docent as long as she can walk.
"We have training on all the exhibits by experts," she said, running down a list of reasons why she loves being a docent. "It's like going back to school without the homework. That's a special treat."
She said the museum has a wonderful outreach program for schools. They send out docents with suitcases jammed with artifacts to visit area classrooms.
"It's a great program, especially since the schools have cut back on field trips," she said. "It gives the kids exposure to things they normally wouldn't see."
What are kids' favorites at the museum?
"They love the dinosaurs," she says, after thinking for a moment. "Of course, Florida never had any dinosaurs, so that is something that we don't have in our museum on a permanent basis. But we do have fossils that go back 55 million years.
"We've got a wonderful Calusa exhibit at the museum. They're the Native Americans who lived down around Port Charlotte. It's a new exhibit, and it's a large one. It's really neat. It includes a Calusa palace. The kids love it."
The Florida Museum of Natural History, SW 34th Street and Hull Road, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 1-5 p.m. Sunday and state holidays. Admission is free. For more information, call (352) 846-2000 or visit

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