Monkey Docent

For the past few months the monkey has been pretty busy and hasn’t posted much on his blog.  It’s not that he’s a lazy monkey (well maybe a little lazy).  Instead he’s been cramming his simian head with facts and figures about ancient Rome.  He’s now a site docent at the Getty Villa in Malibu.  Yup, that’s d-o-c-e-n-t as in cultured monkey, Roman monkey, and well, scholarly monkey.


Kongo has learned the ins and outs of Corinthian columns, Ionic columns, and doric columns.  He knows why acanthus leaves grace Corinthian capitals and can discourse on the nature of compluviums and impluvians  in Roman atriums, and knows the difference between a cubicula and an an oscilla.  He can discern the four styles of Pompeiian painting, have a conversation with a herm and warn you about which plants the ancients might have used to poison their enemies.  Rue the day!  He can tell you all about Roman gardens and architecture because he now leads visitors on architecture and garden tours of the villa grounds.

The Getty Villa in Malibu is based on an ancient Roman maritime villa discovered in Herculaneum in 1750 and is still being excavated.  It’s pretty much an over-the-top example of how the empire’s elite lived in the first century until Mount Vesuvius blew up in August 0079 and pretty much put an end to several towns around the Bay of Naples.


Volunteer docents go through several weeks of classroom training and shadow other docents while they give tours.  After a successful dress rehearsal tour with a professional Getty educator, docents are turned loose on the public.  The cool thing about the Getty, and this is different from a lot of museums, is that docents must prepare their own tours and dialogue.  No canned speeches here!  This means that every time you take a tour you get a little different perspective.  Tours last about 45 minutes and are free.  And by the way, admission to the museum is free too although visitors do have to pay for parking.  And they need a ticket — which you can get at the Getty Villa website (use the link above).

Getty-3Besides giving tours, the monkey has also been trained in Etruscan haruspicy — which is the fine art of reading entrails and livers.  While we don’t actually sacrifice live sheep at the Getty Villa, we do have some super realistic, life-sized sheep livers that Getty haruspexes “read” to divine the future for inquiring visitors.  Kongo has learned to be careful here…when that little, wide-eyed 8-year old little girl asks you if she’s going to get a pony for her birthday (and the parents start giving you the modern day equivalent of the evil eye) you have to couch your divination in a way that leaves everyone happy and the child doesn’t start whining for a new saddle right then and there!  It’s all in good fun and educational too.

Getty-6On weekends the Getty Villa also does perfume making the ancient way and visitors create their own personalized vial of Roman essence and go home smelling like a Roman!  Which was actually pretty nice.  It’s all part of something the Getty calls Roman Holidays and is ongoing until September.

So the monkey is looking forward to writing some future blogs about life as a monkey docent and he hopes that if you are in Los Angeles in the near future that you swing by and check it out.  You will be glad you did!

Getty Villa-1
The Villa even has a Monkey Fountain.  Of course!

Travel safe.  Have fun.


5 thoughts on “Monkey Docent

  1. We saw this museum the last day of our trip to Los Angeles a couple years ago. We were so impressed! My favorite was the seashell fountain in the garden. Lucky monkey!

    1. Pam, that fountain in the East Garden is a replica of one uncovered in Pompeii at the House of the Great Fountain. It evokes the feeling of a sea cave with a mosaic of the god of the Ocean, sea shells, and water.

  2. You never cease to amaze me with your willingness to jump into things. Reminds me of the barge incident in San Fancisco Bay one evening. So good to know folks with the smarts and ability you possess. Signed XO. Not to be confused with hugs and kisses. LOL

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