Off the Wall: Meet the Docents, Barbara Tunney

Welcome to Off the Wall. We’ve skimmed the news around the museum, and want to share the highlights with you.

Written while watching for tornadoes.


There are people who look forward to spending their sunset years in the sunshine; it is my own retirement dream to await my death indoors, dragging strangers up dusty staircases while coughing up one of the most thrilling phrases in the English language: “It was on this spot…” My fantasy is to one day become a docent.” -Sarah Vowell

Barbara Tunney, 2015-16 Chair of the Docent Board

We love our docents. Each year, our volunteer docents lead thousands of visitors on complimentary tours and provide important information about our exhibitions and collections to curious minds. So for today’s blog, we’ve handed the reigns over to Barbara. It’s nice to let her talk about herself for a change!

How long have you been a docent?

I started training as a docent in 2011, after moving here from Memphis.  I had retired from a career as a Clinical Social Worker and we moved to Norman to be near family members and to be near a university community.

What first made you interested in volunteering at the FJJMA?

Another docent, Terry McNichols, told me that the program was fun and interesting and a way to meet new people.  I had never studied art, but loved visiting museums, so it was an opportunity to do several things at once.

Do you have a favorite story or memory from your time as a docent?

When I was shadowing other docents to learn to conduct tours, I was supposed to shadow someone named Mike.  I waited for a man to show up and asked someone when he would be here.  It turned out Mike was a woman and gave a wonderful tour that inspired me to start doing my own tours.  She still teases me about asking when “he” would be here.  She, as well as all the docents I have shadowed, have given me an appreciation for leading tours of all age groups and interests.

Which work, collection, or exhibition has been your favorite at the FJJMA?

The Adkins Collection is my favorite area of the museum.  The space was designed especially to reflect the love of the Southwest by the artists who are featured in the galleries.  I really appreciate the multi-cultural aspect of the Taos Society of Artists with their international representation, the Native American artists who share their paintings, pottery and jewelry, and the other artists who have been attracted by this magical area.

What other hobbies do you have when you aren’t sharing art with visitors?

My other interests as a retiree are: swimming laps at the YMCA (I have worked up to swimming a mile 3 days a week), I am part of the Master Gardener program (but certainly haven’t mastered the intricacies of gardening in Oklahoma), a book club, and being a host family for an international student at OU every year.  My husband and I love to travel and do so at every opportunity.


Wanna follow Barbara’s lead? We’re always looking for wonderful people to add to our impressive lineup of museum docents.


One thought on “Off the Wall: Meet the Docents, Barbara Tunney

  1. OMG Thank God I found you Barbara My dear friend Barbara Tunney and her husband Patrick Pat Tunney 🙂 My angels 🙂 I eternally grateful for your love, affection and patience;) Thankful and happy memories of my stay in Germantown, Memphis, Tennessee 2009 God Bless you friends !! !

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