Student Internship Experiences

The George Washington University Museum Studies Internship Program offers Museum Studies graduate students the opportunity to apply knowledge learned through formal instruction in a museum environment. It is the opinion of the Museum Studies Committee that such an experience is intrinsically educational and at the same time provides the best bridge to professional development.

Alexis Ainsworth, 2008, National Museum of American History

In the summer of 2007, I had the pleasure of interning at the National Museum of American History’s Archives Center. I processed the audio-visual portions of the Reddy Kilowatt Records under the supervision of Wendy Shay, the Center’s audio-visual archivist. The focus of my internship was to learn about film preservation, which taught me how to identify, handle, and care for various types of films.  Throughout the summer I examined 20 reels of film, 13 videos, 28 audio recordings, and 12 filmstrip collections, eventually describing them in a finding aid currently used by Archives Center patrons. The Center had previously never processed a large filmstrip collection like that found in the Reddy Kilowatt Records, which gave me the opportunity to devise a method for dealing with this new collection. In this environment, I learned a great deal about archival practices, beyond those for audio-visual materials, but for paper based materials as well. Not only did I see the importance of preserving these materials, I also learned about the plethora of information that can be gleaned from the visual and audio content of this collection’s recordings.

Jacqueline Emerick, 2007, National Postal Museum

In the fall of 2006, I completed my second internship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum. This museum provided a unique setting because it functions somewhat like a small museum within in a very large museum complex. I was able to learn the various functions of the museum. While I was there, I worked on background curatorial research for an upcoming exhibit. I was able to work on primary research aspects and front-end evaluations. This internship provided me with the opportunity to see how much work goes into the development of an exhibition before the topic is even decided. I was also able to partake in many Smithsonian sponsored events and lectures that deal with current topics in the museum world.

Dawn Mason, 2007, Avoca Museum and Historical Society

In late summer 2006, I conducted my first internship at Avoca Museum and Historical Society, a small historic house museum located in Altavista, Virginia. As I told Avoca’s director and only full-time employee, Frank Murray, I wanted a multi-faceted internship, one that would allow me to work on a variety of projects to hone-in on my strengths and interests. Soon thereafter I found myself writing grant proposals, managing special events, developing marketing materials, and assisting with a capital improvement project, among other things. One of the highlights of the internship was the opportunity to manage the museum when the director was out of the office. Overall, the internship was very enjoyable and enlightening. I have come away with a greater respect for small museum directors and their staff, and a greater appreciation for managing a small historic house museum.

Jennifer Colaguori, 2001, The Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art

I completed two internships while earning my Museum Studies degree. The first was under the Bechhoefer Curator of American Art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. There I researched artworks in the permanent collection, assisted with exhibition planning, drafted label and brochure text. The Corcoran's internship program also included brown bag lunches with various staff members and trips to meet other professionals in cultural institutions around the city. It underscored everything I was learning in class. My second internship was in the Department of Curatorial Records at the National Gallery of Art where I assisted with provenance research for the Gallery's systematic catalogues of its permanent collection. Both experiences allowed me to translate what I was learning through the Museum Studies program to an environment where the results of my efforts would benefit the cultural community.

Kelly Ford, 1998, National Museum of Natural History, National Park Service, and Alexandria Archaeology

During graduate school I interned for the Textile Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Park Service and Alexandria Archaeology. I found these to be incredibly helpful in preparing me for jobs in all types of museums; large institutions, small museums, and I had the opportunity to work with a variety of collections.

Catherine Dean, 2003, Curatorial Research, Collections Management

I had one curatorial research internship, one collections management/exhibition management internship (which was actually a year-long paid fellowship as well), and one paid internship developing a furnishings and interpretive plan for a historic outbuilding. These experiences provided a real-world chance to test out what I had learned in classes and to produce products that were actually used by museums. They allowed me to develop contacts that helped me get a job and will help advance my career. They helped me gain confidence in my own skills and in my professional abilities. They provided diverse experiences that I could put in my resume and draw on when applying for jobs.

Douglas Erickson, 2003, National Air and Space Museum

I can honestly say that without the program at GW I would not have been hired by NASM. I had done an internship at in the Aeronautics Dept. at NASM during the summer of 02', which gave me the opportunity to work with several staff members in the area I now work in. The internship gave them as well as myself the opportunity to see how we worked together. You could say it was a test drive. One thing that I found interesting is that most people I spoke with about how they were hired by whatever museum said that it had been through an internship and/or volunteering. After my internship ended I volunteered, which many people had recommended because it usually reflects that the person is dedicated to that organization. Not that volunteering or interning guarantees a job, but it is a huge foot in the door. In my case it made the difference because several people I had worked with supported my application.

Gretchen Goodell, 2003, Mount Vernon

I interned at George Washington's Mount Vernon for all six of my credits. My first internship where I worked on re-interpreting the Kitchen building (Kitchen, Larder, Scullery) helped me understand the various components I would need to draw upon for proper re-interpretation of historic housespaces - primary & secondary documents, old photographs, historic structure reports, as well as best practices in other places. My second internship at Mount Vernon when I concentrated on helping with the plans of the new museum clarified for me the long-range planning needed for these types of permanent exhibits - object lists and object research were what I was asked to contribute - just a small portion of the first stage of planning!