Since 1887, the Museum has depended on volunteer help for many of its projects and much of its development. Today, more than 200 volunteers participate regularly, making important contributions to the Museum. Some volunteers come in daily, and many have served for 20 or more years!


Volunteer Opportunities

If you are interested in volunteering at the Penn Museum, please review the volunteer opportunities listed and then submit an application for a specific opportunity. Applications will only be considered for these opportunities. For most volunteer positions the only requirement is an interest in archaeology, anthropology, and world cultures, a love of learning, and a willingness to make a regular time commitment, usually two to four hours, one or two days per week.

Weekend Docent Volunteer


Founded in 1887, the Penn Museum has always been one of the world’s great archaeology and anthropology research museums, and the largest university museum in the United States. With roughly one million objects in our care, the Penn Museum encapsulates and illustrates the human story: who we are and where we came from.

Docents lead gallery tours on behalf of the Penn Museum. Tours last 50 minutes, and focus on one of the cultures highlighted in the Museum’s galleries. The content for these tours is developed in consultation with the Guide Program Manager, lead gallery docent, as well as curatorial sections. Tours are booked for weekends and most are either open public tours, or tours for private events.

Required Training

Training for the docent program is quite rigorous. Before joining the museum’s docent program, applicants will be interviewed by Learning Programs staff. Following a successful interview, perspective docents will accompany several docent tours. After selecting a gallery to focus on, the perspective docent will be given a reading list with background on the collection in that gallery. New docents must also complete a 12-hour training course focusing on educational best practices for leading tours. Perspective docents develop a tour based on outlines provided by the Learning Program Department. After these tours are developed they are approved the Guide Program Manager, lead gallery docent, and curatorial sections. Successful completion of training, and readiness to lead tours, is based on approval by the Guide Program Manager.


Docent volunteers must have at least 1 year of educational experience. This can include working in a classroom. Less formal experiences, such as working as a summer camp counselor, or tutor may also be considered. Docents must be over 18 years of age.


Docents are required to purchase a membership to the Penn Museum. This will keep them informed on all upcoming museum events. They are also required to offer two weekend days a month to be free to lead tours. In addition to this availability, docents are required to attend a monthly meeting, the first Saturday of every month. Finally, docents must undergo a background check for clearances on child abuse and criminal activity.

To apply, fill out an application on the Penn Museum website here:

Cartifacts Volunteer

Description: Cartifacts is an informal, in-gallery public program that provides hands-on experiences for Penn Museum visitors of all ages. Cartifact Volunteers set up displays of five to ten touchable artifacts at carts located in the Museum’s galleries and explain the function and history of each object. Each cart is focused on a gallery theme. Cartifact Volunteers engage visitors in short-term discussions utilizing open-ended questions.

Required Training: Volunteers will be interviewed and introduced to all available carts. Volunteers will study the training manual of the cart of his/her choice for up to two weeks. After two weeks, Cartifact Volunteers will be tested on their familiarity with the objects and their ability to facilitate discussions with visitors about the material.

Qualifications: This volunteer opportunity is open to mature high school students and adults. An ideal Cartifact Volunteer demonstrates good listening and conversational skills, has enthusiasm for the material, and has knowledge of the Penn Museum’s collections and floor plan.

Requirements: Commitment for at least one day a week is preferred, but not a requirement. Cartifact Volunteers may schedule themselves to work for any hours during the following times: Tuesday-Friday, 12pm-4pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-4pm; or special evening events.

Survey Assistant Volunteer

Description: Help the Penn Museum fulfill its mission of engaging and educating the public! Survey Assistants intercept Penn Museum visitors in the galleries and distribute and collect prepared paper surveys and questionnaires.

Required Training: Volunteers will be interviewed and introduced to the surveys and the goals of surveying.

Qualifications: This volunteer opportunity is open to adults and mature high school students. An ideal Survey Assistant demonstrates good listening and conversational skills, exhibits a friendly personality, is comfortable interacting with strangers, and has knowledge of the Penn Museum’s collections and floor plan. Survey Assistants should be able to stand for 2 or 3 hours at a time.

Requirements: Commitment to volunteer at least once a month, for about 2 or 3 hours per month. Assistance is needed for weekend and evening events. Events may include any of the following: World Culture Days, evening PM @ PM events, Family Second Sundays, or Gallery Romps.

Volunteer Benefits

Volunteers may request VIP parking passes. They receive a 10% discount on purchases made in the Museum's shops and cafe. Volunteers are also encouraged to join the Museum as members, and new volunteers receive a 10% discount on individual or family memberships.


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