So, You Want to Be a Museum Intern?

Museums across the nation, from the Smithsonian collections in Washington, D.C., to the Seattle Art Museum downtown, offer various types of internships. Internships at museums offer college students the opportunity to engage with a museum’s permanent collections (which, depending on the museum, could include anything from works of art to historical artifacts to ancient Greek vases) learn how a museum attracts visitors, donors, and publicity, or observe and assist with the detailed process that goes into planning and organizing a new exhibition. Museum internships could potentially have a specific focus on just one, or several of these aspects. Here are some examples of common types of internships available at museums:

Curatorial/Research: Conduct research on various works of art or artifacts in a museum’s permanent collection, plan how works of art are organized and displayed in galleries, assist museum curators with making important decisions on future exhibitions and organizing works of art around a common historical or stylistic theme, creating content for descriptive labels on specific items.

Communications/Public Relations: Interact with local media (newspapers, magazines, arts publications), to attract interest in the museums collections, write press releases on upcoming exhibitions, or events being hosted by the museum (such as live musical performances or artists’ discussions of their work), create written materials (such as brochures) to be distributed to museum visitors.

Education: Assist with the creation of programs for children to learn about art, history, science, etc. from the museum’s collection and exhibitions, lead tours of the museum to various visiting groups of students, interact with docents, help with event planning.

Another tip: If you are interested in an art museum internship specifically, it is best to do a national search for these internships, since museums often have smaller teams, often only take on a small cohort of interns, and there are only so many museums in a given city (although some cities, such as New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.) are home to more museums than most other cities. In any case, conducting a national search for art museum internships will yield the maximum amount of possibilities, and some art museum internships come with room and board. Happy searching!

By Eli Heller (He/Him)
Eli Heller (He/Him) Career Coach Eli Heller (He/Him)