Scottsdale Salutes: docent Debra Palmer

Debra Palmer with a school group during a tour of the Museum of the West in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Debra Palmer with a school group during a tour of the Museum of the West in Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

A passion for horses and a commitment to volunteering convinced Scottsdale resident Debra Palmer to use her skills and talents to assist the city’s newest museum, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

Ms. Palmer and her husband moved to Scottsdale last December. After only one visit to the city’s newest museum, she was hooked.

“If I volunteer somewhere it’s a good way to connect with people and the community that we just moved to,” said Ms. Palmer during a phone interview on Aug. 26.

The museum opened Jan. 15 of this year. Not only is Ms. Palmer a volunteer, she also serves as a museum docent.

A longtime owner of horses and a horse enthusiast, Ms. Palmer also enjoyed serving as a docent and class instructor at the Tucson Botanical Garden and at the Pacific Asian Museum in Pasadena, Calif.

Her involvement at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, allows her to combine both passions.

“When I went into (the museum) for the first time, I went in and it’s an art museum but then you get through the galleries and you turn the corner and here were saddles and bridles and all this stuff,” said Ms. Palmer. “I thought ‘this is really cool.’”

The museum even features a saddle that reminds Ms. Palmer of one of the ones she use to have when she was younger, growing up in Minnesota.

Ms. Palmer says the museum presents historical facts and  Western art in an interesting and intriguing way.

“A lot of people are surprised at how much is inside the museum,” said Ms. Palmer. “I was like a lot of people, like ‘I don’t need to see any more paintings about the past.’”

“It’s just an interesting way to present the historical past through art. I think it’s really interesting and it provides a connection point for the young people too.”

Ms. Palmer first got involved with the museum by going inside to ask if they needed volunteers. Shortly after, she enrolled in the docent training class offered at the museum.

“It was really neat because when I’ve been involved in different volunteer programs before, it’s predominately women and only a few men. This museum seems to really hook the men, too,” she said.

The best part of volunteering at the museum: The people she meets.

“Both the local people who have heard about it and are excited to come and see it, or the out of town guests, you never know where they’re from,” said Ms. Palmer. “Everyone connects with the museum and the art.”

The Museum of the West is located at 3830 N. Marshall Way in downtown Scottsdale’s arts district.

The museum is currently seeking volunteers, including docents. The deadline to register for the six-week fall docent training is Sept. 4. For more information visit

If interested in volunteering for the city of Scottsdale, visit

To nominate someone for Scottsdale Salutes e-mail Melissa Fittro at

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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