Playing the Hits

We learned a long time ago that it takes more than a world-class collection to attract visitors from, well, all over the world. It takes more than new displays, and scores of interactive devices to create the kind of memorable experience visitors expect when coming to our beloved Museum of Electrical Invention.

“As wonderful as the collection is, without a knowledgeable docent, these priceless artifacts stand mute and inanimate,” says Bill Englander, long time educator, inventor & master docent. “It’s our job to bring these artifacts and displays to life.”

Docent, Bill Englander, with some of his many creations which can be seen around the museum

Well said.

With approximately 1000 objects on display—virtually all authentic, mostly rare, some priceless!—visitors can feel surrounded, intimidated and overwhelmed.

It’s a challenge to successfully bridge the gap between the Museum’s many historically significant artifacts, and your average 8 year old kid. Yet, we almost always succeed, and make memorable connections with our visitors.

So, why do so many people have an unexpectedly fun and memorable experience at the SPARK Museum? Is it the way the collection is displayed? Is it the many interactive devices and gadgets featured throughout the galleries? Is it the Museum’s family friendly washrooms?

All that, and something more.

We know because our visitor’s tell us what they like most about visiting SPARK all the time. They tell us on the phone, on social media, in the grocery store, and often right after a weekend MegaZapper Electrical Show.

“It’s the people,” says John Jenkins, President & CEO. “The human touch. Not the collection, not the interactive devices, not even the best diaper changing table in Bellingham, but the positive people who volunteer at the SPARK Museum.”

“We are the main link between patrons and the collection they came to see,” says Bill. “Through a docent’s eyes, visitors can experience more, learn more, and have fun in the process.”

Docents, Kevin Hall and Chad Avery, in the Static Lab

Fortunately, the SPARK Museum is blessed with some of the most talented, colorful, dedicated docents you’ll find anywhere, and they know how to connect. But how can even the most powerful of docents hope to score a direct hit with everyone in your family, when everyone in your family isn’t an electrical engineer?

“First, we know how to break it down without dumbing it down” says Bill. “We stay away from jargon, and focus on clear, concise language—there’s no reason not to.”

Nicely put.

“It takes more than technical knowledge to be an effective docent,” says Ken Volker. “Sure, we’ll get occasional tech enthusiasts, but they won’t need help nearly as much as the family members they dragged along, some expecting to be bored out of their skulls.”

Ken is a retired electrical engineer and one of the Museum’s most gifted educators. His ability to connect with families—especially younger kids—is inspiring and legendary.

“We have to focus on our efforts on them—the people who don’t know anything about this stuff,” says Ken. “And surprise the whole family with what a truly interesting and approachable era of history we’re presenting.”

Docent, Ken Volker, with visitors demonstrating electromagnetism


Charlie Bryan, SPARK Visitor Engagement Manager presses the issue further. “It’s hard not to feel part of the action when you’re touching 200,000 volts and your hair stands up like a dandelion,” laughs Charlie. “These are simple demonstrations that turn into unforgettable moments, why? Because a trained docent safely orchestrates your experience, and ties these cool stories and discoveries together.”


“Visitors don’t come to see a movie,” says Jenkins. “If anything, they come to see a live concert. Think of the docents as trained musicians in your favorite cover band, they operate the machines and devices like the rare instruments they are, and literally recreate some of greatest discoveries in science and invention, right before your eyes.”

Diverse & dedicated docents demonstrate dynamic discoveries daily!

Demonstrations are performed daily by our rotating team of volunteer docents, along with MegaZapper Electrical Shows every weekend in our Performance Center. “Whenever you chose to visit,” vows Charlie, one hand over his heart. “Our team of docents promise to give you an electrifying experience, or die trying.”

Stay grounded.