Spotted on the D train last week, “hiring a summer intern is now easier than swiping your MetroCard.” This may be true for employers… but for emerging museum professionals it’s no secret that internships can be extremely competitive and hard to get.
Despite the struggle, our students do amazing things and exhibit an extremely diverse set of interests and skills. We would like to recognize the hard work and dedication of each student in this program and have featured the internships of seven such students below. Thanks for reading!
Department of Sanitation of New York
I worked under the supervision of Robin Nagle, who serves as the anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation of New York. I worked on two separate but related projects. The first was to start the process of cataloging and photographing the Molina Collection, an assemblage of found objects housed in a Sanitation garage on 99th Street and First Avenue. In this capacity I worked with Dr. Nagle and other DSNY employees to determine the best course of action to be taken with regards to the collection, which will need to be moved when this specific garage shuts down. The second project involved the early stages of discussion on the possibility of a DSNY museum. The Department dates back to 1881, when it was called the Department of Street Cleaning. The name was changed in 1929 to the Department of Sanitation. There is a wealth of historical
material spread over various offices and storage spaces – the goal of the project is to consolidate the historical materials in one place, to provide proper collections care and management, and to display this material to the public. I worked with the Bureau of Public Affairs and the newly formed Foundation for New York’s Strongest to discuss long-term planning for the creation of a future DSNY museum. My involvement in this project has extended beyond the end of my internship, and I hope to continue my work with the DSNY as they move their plans forward.
Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History
I worked as a programming assistant for the National Museum of American History in their Office of Programs and Strategic Initiatives (OPSI). I was part of a small staff that dealt with the research and collection of the museum’s vast artifacts dedicated to African American history and culture. Some of my duties included participating in the planning and organization of the annual March on Washington Film Festival, as well
as escorting key members of the festival to the theatre. I also conducted research on a series of debates between Bayard Rustin and Malcolm X that took place from 1960 to 1962 and the famous sit-in that took place at the Woolworth’s Five and Dime in Greensboro, NC. In addition, I also penned a blog post regarding a little-known event in civil rights history and traveled to the spot where that event took place. Students have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and interest in African American history, as well as discovering what goes into putting on a major event inside one of the most well-known museums in the world.
Hispanic Society Museum & Library
I took the Conservation and Collections course with Glenn last year, and we visited the Hispanic Society of America for one of our field trips. The conservator who spoke to us invited anyone who was interested in an internship to contact her. It was the easiest
application process I’ve ever gone through. It was just a matter of meeting the right person at the right time. The main project I helped with was preparing for a traveling exhibition. There were exhibition and shipping lists to be made, files to organize, and objects to photograph. I loved getting to help clean some of the objects while learning about various conservation treatments. Whenever the Hispanic Society reopens after its renovation, I would highly recommend interning there!
American Museum of Natural History
During the Summer and Fall of 2016, I worked as an intern with the 3D Exhibition and Design department at the American Museum of Natural History. Over the course of my internship, I worked on a wide range of projects, including the current “¡Cuba!” exhibition and an up-coming exhibition on the senses.
As an intern, I was responsible for a wide range of different activities. For example, I was taught how to create floor plans, build models and prototypes, design better graphics, create aesthetic themes, and install physical components. I was also required to develop some project management skills, including the sourcing and purchasing of exhibition material. By working across the board, I found that this internship allowed me not only to develop a new set of skills, but it helped me strengthen those I already had. While there are no requirements for an internship like this one, I would suggest that interested students have some basic understanding of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as a general knowledge of power tools.
American Museum of Natural History
The Anthropology Collections and Archives Division at the AMNH is a bit different from other internships, in that they only take interns when they have specific projects with which they need help. In the summer of 2015, the Division had two projects they put in my charge, and I split my time at the AMNH between them. The first project was the organization and packing of over 14,000 object cards for the textile collection that the museum wished to retain after the records had been digitized. While this was repetitive work, it was also interesting because the staff member who cared for the textile collection many years ago included a hand-drawn sketch of each object on its corresponding card. It felt good to place the boxes of organized cards in the Division Archives because I came to think of them as museum objects themselves and worth preserving for future researchers.
The second task came to be known as the Peruvian Textile Project and involved transferring archaeological textile specimens, excavated from an ancient Peruvian site in the late 1940s, out of their degrading cellulose acetate holders and into archive-stable trays and boxes. This was a hugely rewarding and exciting project and I gained valuable experience handling and manipulating fragile textile specimens. During the internship I also had the opportunity to occasionally assist with other day-to-day collections management duties, including the transportation of objects between different parts of the museum and updating digital records. This internship was one of the highlights of my graduate career and it allowed me to fulfill my dream of working in the Anthropology Department at the AMNH!
Grey Art Gallery
I interned at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery from May 2016 and I continued the internship for the fall and spring semesters. I technically interned in the public programming and education department, however since the Grey is such a small institution, I was given the opportunity to help out in many different departments and projects. I made the initial layouts for the vitrines wrote the announcements for public programs, and sent condition reports and loan agreements. When the exhibition opened up, I also lead tours and gave Gallery talks.
During my time at the grey, I assisted in three different exhibitions. The first was centered around cellist Charlotte Moorman and the Avant Garde movement. The second, and my favorite was Inventing Downtown, and focused downtown artist run galleries of the 1950s and 60s. The coolest part of that exhibition was many of the featured artists are still alive and active in the art scene. I got to meet artists such as Red Grooms, Claes Oldenberg, Irving Sandler, Lois Dodd, John Cohen, and Mimi Gross. The final exhibition I am working on, Myopia, features the drawings of Mark Mothersbaugh from the band DEVO (opening April 25). I am incredibly grateful to the Grey for giving me the opportunity to gain a variety of experience and meet so many fascinating artists and people.
Onassis Cultural Center New York
During the academic calendar year of 2016-2017, I worked at the Onassis Cultural Center assisting with the development of “A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700BC – 200 AD” and the corresponding catalogue. When I first interviewed for my position, my supervisor asked me about my interests in the art and museum world. She then explained what her duties included and detailed what her upcoming year was going to look like. She made it clear from the beginning that she wanted me to learn but also be happy in the internship and she asked me to divvy up in percentages what I was most interested in working on with her so she could tailor my experience.
I was able to work from the beginning of when things started to pick up to the very end of installation. I worked on the catalogue, I worked with exhibition design and graphics, and I worked with curatorial components, giving me the ability to see almost every aspect of how exhibitions come together. I was never told that I was unwelcome in a meeting and my opinions and input were valued by my superiors. In the end, I was hired on as a Gallery Attendant for the exhibition.
Congrats to all the talented Museum Studies students for all their hard work! Thank you all for reading and thank you Joanna, Alex, Jenna, Alison, Erika, Molly, and Caitlin for sharing their experiences!