What does a Museum Studies internship entail? Pt. 3

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 Ella Chamis’s perspective on her internship with the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.



Why did you choose this internship?
The National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) existed at the crux between anthropology and art history, which is my academic background. I believed that as a curatorial intern I would be able to explore the everyday tasks and responsibilities of a curator of non-Western contemporary art. As a result I hoped that I would discover whether or not it was truly the career path that I wanted to pursue.
How long is your internship? How many hours a week do you work?
The internship takes places between June and August, lasts a total of ten weeks, and is full-time, requiring me to work at least forty hours a week.
Please describe some of the projects that you are working on.
Currently I am helping compile artist profiles, draft label copies, transcribe artist interviews and complete general research for an upcoming exhibition focusing on contemporary female African artists entitled “I Am…”. Additionally, I have also collected research for potential museum acquisitions and purchase requests.
What is your favorite part about the internship?
 
The opportunities I have had to have one-on-one conversations with the current curators of NMAfA have been the most informative and helpful. Speaking with some of the leaders in the field has given me invaluable insight into museum operations and the role of a curator.
What have you learned so far?
 
Most importantly, I have learned that no one department in a museum can operate effectively on its own. Since beginning my internship I have attended meetings with education, development, installation, registration, and conservation; in a few cases
representatives from almost every sector of the museum have been in attendance. It is clear that effective collaboration is imperative for the successful running of a museum.

What lessons from the two semesters of coursework in Florence are you applying to your internship?
 
Since I am helping prepare for an upcoming exhibition, the practical knowledge and experience I gained while helping to curate “Reflections of a Society,” such as how best to research an object, have been useful during my internship.

Which class prepared you for your current position best?
During Art and Objects in the Museum in the fall semester, we had the opportunity to speak with and learn from Walter Guadagnini, an eminent curator of contemporary art. The conversations I was able to have with him during our class trip to Milan -about curating objects that are constantly changing and in some cases refuse to be placed within a clearly defined box, such as a museum exhibition space- have consistently been relevant during my internship thus far.
Additionally, Emanuela Rossi’s class Transcultural Aesthetics has been extremely relevant as the museum is constantly considering appropriate and respectful representation of art that has been produced by a culture that is not our own.

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