Tour Information

Docent-Lead Tours
Tours At
The Norton

Appropriate for tourists and tots, seniors and students, and even experts and ignorami, the Norton’s tour program offers a wide range of topics, themes, and possibilities to enhance your group’s visit. Tours may even be customized for your specific studies or needs.

Over 20 tours create the core of our docent-led program. Explore American History from the colonial period through the closing of the frontier or see art in the New World evolve from the colonial Limner tradition through to 20th century Post-Impressionism. Gain insight into highlights of our European collection or focus exclusively on 19th century French Art History. The scope and breadth of study is entirely up to you!

Each tour lasts approximately 45 minutes with time for questions at the end. Guided tours are available by appointment only for groups of 10 or more people. To schedule a guided tour, call the Norton at (318) 865-4201 ext. 128 or email at least three weeks in advance of a planned visit. Scheduling is limited to availability.

Group Tour Programs and their descriptions

Durrie Five Miles to Salem

During the colonial period and the early days of the Republic, American artists painted either imitations of European subjects and styles, or in a somewhat primitive limner tradition. Then art met transcendentalism and the first truly American style was born with the painters of the Hudson River School. The wonders of the American landscape continued to enthrall native and immigrant artists through the Luminist, Barbizon, and American Impressionist styles. At the Norton we’ll explore the journey through American art history with the innovations and master works of American painters like Thomas Sully, Rembrandt Peale, Thomas Cole, George Inness, and Mary Cassatt.

Unknown Artist George Washington

How was America born? Where did her people come from? What challenges did they face? Using paintings, porcelain, and sculpture, students explore the timeline of American History from the first Native American inhabitants to the closing of the frontier in 1890. Works by Thomas Sully, Rembrandt Peale, Charles Russell, and Frederic Remington are included in this tour.

Inness Edge of the Hill

This tour is a fun, uncomplicated introduction to artistic vocabulary where students learn to appreciate artwork by putting in their “artist’s eyes.” A reading of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See, begins a great hunt for colors, and we’ll have fun with finding lines and forms in art work after reading Lines that Wiggle.

Wedgwood Mercury

Any visit to a museum is automatically a visit to Greco-Roman history. The word “museum” itself derives from a Greek phrase mean “Home of the muses”. The Greeks and the Romans, long after they were political powers, continued to educate, inspire, and inform Western culture; they provided the foundation for the civilization in which we continue to live, and their thoughts and deeds continue to awe and instruct us more than a thousand years after their world ceased to exist. The tour explores the classical influence of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire on works and artists in the gallery, and unravels in depth the history depicted in the tapestries.

Perils of Pigment Poster

This tour was born with a young man’s questions: “When was color invented?” The Norton explored the history of painter’s pigments, delving into how the old masters created their first paints. We uncovered some gruesome discoveries: 20,000 insects expired for a scintilla of scarlet; 12,000 mollusks gave their lives for a pinch of purple, and countless artists paid the price for color in infirmity, invalidism, and even death. The high cost of art hasn’t just been measured in dollars and cents. Combining science and history, we’ll identify which artists used what type of paints to create their masterpieces.

Russell Self Portrait

One was a professional artist and an amateur cowboy, while the other was a professional cowboy and an amateur artist. Exploring the painting and sculptures of the powerhouses of cowboy art - Frederic Remington and Charles Russell - students will learn how the mythology and legends of the Old West were created or captured.

Seasonal Tours

Halloween Poster

Mystery lies at the heart of every horror experience: who’s that tap-tap-tapping on my window? Why is that shadowy figure lurk-lurk-lurking in the corner? What IS that how-how- howling at the moon?! Delve into the deep mysteries of the R.W. Norton Art Gallery on this terrible tour of terror!

Get revved up for Halloween with this story filled-tour inspired by our spookiest art. All new ghost stories await those brave enough to attend. Our professional storyteller is fully capable of protecting even the youngest of our visitors from the fearful denizens lurking in our midst, so feel free to bring the whole class. We’re just DYING to meet y’all....

This tour is free of charge and limited to groups of 30 people.


What makes gift-giving so precious has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the quality we might call mindfulness – paying attention, knowing what was really important, giving something that reflects an understanding of those often intangible things that are most important to the recipient. Join us as we explore the gifts our artists have given to friends, family, and the world at large with this guided tour of our permanent collection.

Our professional storyteller will spin all new yarns about the days of yore, warming hearts and eliciting grins about the spirit of the season.

This tour is free of charge and limited to groups of 30 students.

Spring Garden Tour

Celebrate the season with the Spring Walking tour! We'll take the guided tour outside for a tip-toe through the tulips. Wear your walking shoes - we have 40 acres of manicured gardens, including our famous azalea beds, bronze statues, and watergardens to explore.
Do dark skies threaten on the day of the tour? Fear not! We'll enjoy an indoor Rainy- Day tour, exploring spring-themed artwork throughout the museum.

This tour is free of charge and limited to groups of 30 students.

First Saturday Tours

The First Saturday Tour program was launched in February 2007 as an opportunity to present thematic tours to the general public at a regular intervals.

These tours have explored such serious matters as “Depictions of Native Americans in Art,” comparing and contrasting the evolution of American thought and attitudes towards the continent’s original inhabitants and the plight of female artists in “Great Artists Who Just Happen to be Women”.

We’ve also taken a light-hearted view of our collection with the “Guys and Dolls” tour, which explored the complex (and sometimes comical) battle between the sexes, as well as touring our Antique Dolls and Firearm collection.

We’ve even tackled the technical aspects of our works with the “Painting Techniques” tour, answering the age-old (and often asked) question: How do they do that? We have even offered performance based tours centered around our spookiest art with the Halloween Tour and shared stories of the season with the Christmas tour.

Thought-provoking, chuckle-inducing, and all around good fun, the First Saturday Tours are completely free to the general public every first Saturday of the month at 2 p.m. No reservation is needed, but groups of 10 or more are asked to call 318-865-4201 ext. #128 in advance.

"A Christmas Celebration of the Power of the Word: Scripture in Art and Literature"

6 December 2014 @ 2:00 pm

"In the beginning was the Word..." John 1:1 Powerful works of literature have always inspired artists in other media as well as their own, and arguably the most powerful written works are those born out of religious belief, like the Bible. Painters, sculptors, ceramacists, and poets have drawn from its narratives, from the cautionary origin tale of Adam and Eve, sculpted by both Auguste Rodin and Paul Manship, to the redemptive story of the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ, caught in paint and porcelain by masters including Jean-Honore' Fragonard and Edward Boehm.

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The Most Fragile Art: Glass and Porcelain

3 January 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Originally rare and expensive, glass has always drawn the eye with both its brilliance and transparency. This tour will explain the glass-making process, including blowing, cutting, and pressing, with a PowerPoint presentation and an exploration of gallery glassworks including Steuben and Gillinder & Co.

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Scandals & Vandals

7 February 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Not everybody loves Valentine’s Day. For those of us still single or, worse yet, smarting from a relationship that didn’t work out, these artists offer a little fellow-feeling with their own tales involving jilted lovers and the bad boys and girls that lured us into bad judgment (and occasionally bad behavior).

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Six Degrees of Art History

7 March 2015 @ 2:00 pm

We haven’t found a connection to Kevin Bacon yet (though I’m sure we could), but many of our artists had interesting relationships with each other and other important historical figures, all of which we’ll explore on this trip through the mysteries of human contact. For example, which American artist could claim an acquaintance with both the American president and the British king in the early 19th century? 

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Coyote Sky

4 April 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Join us on a tour that begins in the museum galleries, but soon moves to an outdoor walking tour exploring Native American myths surrounding not only our flora and fauna, but also the animals depicted in our collection of outdoor sculpture.

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Louisiana Journeys

2 May 2015 @ 2:00 pm

On this tour, we'll explore the colorful history of our own state through works of art either by Louisianans or depicting the Louisiana countryside or cityscapes accompanied by readings from Louisiana writers and historical figures. We'll celebrate works based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem of the Acadian diaspora, Evangeline, and the perseverance and strength of people of color in Louisiana artist Richmond Barthe's Africa Awakening, among others.

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American Professionals

6 June 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Since America was itself a work of creative imagination, it's not surprising that the country has given birth to a number of innovative figures in various professions which we'll explore through depictions or inventions within our collection.

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The Transcendental Tour: When America Discovered Itself

11 July 2015 @ 2:00 pm

On this tour, we'll explore the art and literature of the first genuinely American philosophical movement, transcendentalism, and take a particular look at its influence on the first great American art movement, the Hudson River School. 

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From Renaissance to Enlightenment

1 August 2015 @ 2:00 pm

This tour begins with developments in the art and thought of the Renaissance and explores how these eventually led to the 18th century era known as the Enlightenment in Europe, and then how the Enlightenment became the most profound influence on the early art, literature, and political thought of America.

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Being Framed: The Art of Frame-Making

5 September 2015 @ 2:00 pm

The frame that surrounds a painting not only adds to the experience of the work, but is often a work of art in its own right. 

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Living in America

3 October 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Most of our history is given over to prominent people and dramatic moments, but, for most people, prominence and drama are just occasional moments. This tour celebrates the real life of America, dealing with images and objects that reflect how Americans have worked, traveled, played sports, celebrated, entertained themselves, and raised families.

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It Runs in the Family

7 November 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Just read the list of artists collected at the Norton and you'll be assured that artistic talent is genetically transmitted. From the First Family of American Art, the Peales, who produced three generations of American artists stretching from the colonial period to the Civil War to the brotherly acts of the Borglums and Morans, siblings, spouses, parents, and children have passed the paints and clay along.

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The Christmas Carol

5 December 2015 @ 2:00 pm

Uses art to help tell the stories behind popular Christmas carols.

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Self-Guided Tour Information

For those who wish to see the Norton at their own pace, we offer Self Guided tours. These brochures may be picked up in the lobby or downloaded below.


American Art History

Traces the evolution of painting styles in America from Birch to Bierstadt and beyond
Decorative Arts

Decorative Arts

An appreciation of the decorative arts including our collections of Steuben glass, colonial silver, Cybis porcelain, and Wedgwood
HRS School

Hudson River School

A complete walk through the first significant American art movement from Cole and Durand to Bierstadt and Sonntag
American History

American History

A journey through early American History which includes our Civil War Gallery and the conquest of the West
European Experience

European Experience

A look at significant European works including our tapestries, paintings by Dutch masters, Les Animaliers sculpture, and works by Rodin
Painting Techniques

Painting Techniques

Answering the question, "How did they do that?", this tour explores several works of art and their techniques and terminology
American Sculpture

American Sculpture

Takes a look at great American sculptors, including Borglum, Farnham, Russell, Remington, Saint-Gaudens, and others
French Art History

French Art History

Explores Barye to Barbizons, Romantics to Rodin, complete with French art terminology
Perils of Pigment

Perils of Pigment

Uncovering the artistry and history of color and divulging the dangers of painting
Cowboy Artists

Cowboy Artists

Covering Russell and Remington, but also the works of other significant "cowboy" artists like Stanley, Shreyvogel, and A.D.M. Cooper
French Sculpture

French Sculpture

Explores French sculpture from neo-classical to the Romantic to the Modern using the works of Barye, Dalou, Rodin and others in the permanent collection


An in-depth look at two of America's premier western artists in galleries dedicated to their work

To schedule a guided tour, call the Norton at (318) 865-4201 ext. 128 or email at least three weeks in advance of a planned visit. Scheduling is limited to availability.

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