What does a Museum Studies internship entail? Part 2.

In order to complete the Masters in Museum Studies degree, our students must complete 200 hours of an internship for academic credit. In the past, these internships have ranged from institutions located in Europe to North America, in areas of interest including history, art, photography, science, and local history.

In the summer of 2017, our intelligent and hardworking MAs are interning in museums such as: the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim, First Mayor’s House, and the Uffizi to name a few! Below highlights Lillian Vaughan’s perspective on her internship with the First Mayor’s House, Salinas, California.

Why did you choose this internship?

I chose this internship because I knew I wanted to be near home for a while, and my city is really important to me. I was born and raised here, and there is a bit of a renaissance happening, with the arts and culture coming to the forefront and gaining more attention on a larger scale. I wanted to be part of it.
How long is your internship? How many hours a week do you work?

I’m doing all 200 hours here. I only go to the museum twice a week for 6 hours each time, but also work from home to make up the difference.

Please describe some of the projects that you are working on.

My main project right now is developing a “history walk” for the gardens at the house. The idea is to highlight the different cultures that were originally in the area and subsequent immigrant groups that had an impact in the city of Salinas. We wanted something that people can come see and learn from when the house itself is closed to visitors. We are also developing an exhibit for Founder’s Day next year, which will be the 150th anniversary of the city as we know it.

What is your favorite part? 

I enjoy the feeling of involvement I have with everything. It’s fun to think up ways to include the community, such as having local schools volunteer, or having local artists participate in projects. I’m also very happy with the level of responsibility I’ve been given. My mentor has a “learn by doing” approach, which lets me figure things out for myself; but I am still able to take advantage of her support and expertise when I need to.

What have you learned so far?

It isn’t quite new information, but it has really reinforced previous lessons about having patience in the museum field. I can run in with big ideas and elaborate plans, but it will still take a minimum of a couple years for some of it to come into being. Grant applications, board approval, and building codes are frustrating but necessary obstacles I’ve already come across. I just try to remember that the fun stuff can’t be done without the more bureaucratic stuff. It’s like planting the seed.

What lessons from the two semesters of coursework in Florence are you applying to your internship?

One of the most important things I learned studying in Florence is that every museum comes with a unique set of needs and obstacles. You can’t just knock down a wall in a 16th century Palazzo because it suits your purposes, you have to work around it.
Similarly, the balance of preserving context vs. respecting the objects. It’s an ongoing battle that differs within every institution. In my museum, we would love to have antique Victorian-era rugs in every room, but because the house itself is the museum and the point is for people to walk through it, the rugs are reproductions or at least period-appropriate.

Which class prepared you for your current position best?

I am tempted to say History of Collecting, but that could be because it was my favorite. However, it did provide an important general background that makes you appreciate how far we have come regarding museums. My lessons about context came from that class, too! Museum Education makes me look at things from different perspectives because our visitor base is pretty diverse. I can’t really say that any one class prepared me the most. I think the bits and pieces evened it out.

Lilly and Sunset over the Tyrrhenian Sea

Thanks Lilly! Check back next week for another perspective on interning in the museum world.

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