Museum hosts 'meet and greet' for new and returning docents

Museum director Anne Chesky Smith explains docent duties and responsibilities during a volunteer orientation at the museum in 2016.

Interested in learning about local history and sharing it with others? On Friday, Sept, 22 at 10:30 a.m., the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center will host a “meet and greet” in which residents interested in volunteering with the museum can meet long-time volunteers and find out all that happens behind the scenes at the museum.

As a 501c(3) nonprofit, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center relies on the hard work of its many volunteers to keep its doors open during its season, from March to December each year. Volunteer docents provide front-line guest services at the museum. Docents greet visitors, run the gift shop, provide information about museum exhibits and more. They are "the face of the museum," museum administrators say.

Volunteering at the museum is an enriching experience for both those who are longtime residents of Buncombe County and those who are just getting settled in the area. 

The meet and greet will be a time for existing volunteers to meet with one another and fellowship, review opening and closing procedures and share feedback with museum staff. Those who are interested in serving as docents will have the opportunity to learn from existing volunteers about their experiences and are invited to stay for an extended tour of the galleries for a more in-depth overview of what it means to be a docent at the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center.

The museum is experiencing a period of growth after a major renovation in 2016. Located in Black Mountain’s historic firehouse, built in 1921 by Richard Sharp Smith, the museum has increased its capacity for exhibit space, added public restrooms, and restored the building back to Smith’s original vision.

Currently, there are two exhibits on display. Featured in the lower gallery through Dec. 2 is, “Palaces for the People: Rafael Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces,” featuring the life and work of the great Spanish-American tile maker and architect. Permanently featured (but always evolving) in the upper gallery is, “Pathways from Our Past,” which leads visitors through the history of the Swannanoa Valley, from Native American presence thousands of years ago into the 1960s. 

Museum staff will provide light refreshments including coffee, tea and doughnuts at the meet-and-greet event. Existing volunteers are encouraged to bring a friend. For more, contact the museum’s assistant director and volunteer coordinator, Katherine Cutshall, at or 669-9566.