Five tips (and a bonus!) to landing that first museum job

As promised in my last post about my experience landing my own first ‘real’ museum position. Of course having an well-written cover letter and connections is a big help… but for all of the emerging museum professionals who are wondering if they’ll ever break into the field, or if getting a degree is really worth it (I think it is), these are for you.

Five tips (and a big bonus) to landing a position in museums:

1. Be Confident – not cocky, there is a difference. Be aware of your capabilities and make others know you can and will learn anything beyond that which is necessary.

2. BeRelocate Willing to Relocate – searching in the same little area can often result in nothing because either a) there just aren’t that many museum positions there  or b) you are swimming in a very big pond.

3. Volunteer – Yes, I said it. I had my fair share of unpaid, barely paid, and paid positions and they all count. You HAVE to put your time in. Each position provided learning, experience, and mentorship. You have a full time job to pay the bills? Good, volunteer on the weekends. Leaving no gap in your resume (and showing your dedication) is the. only. way. you will get a job.

4. Make Yourself Invaluable – You must be willing to do what others are not. There are many tasks in museums which are not glamorous, but your willingness to complete them with the same passion you do your favorite duty will show your dedication.

5. Know that this is often a thankless career – feeling unappreciated? Pat yourself on the back. Chances are you’re doing a great job. It’s not that people don’t notice, it’s just that others often have NO IDEA how much work you do in a day, or even what it means to design an exhibition. You know how people thank you? By coming to your programs and exhibitions, by becoming a member, and by putting even a dollar in your donation can. We do this job because WE love it, not because we need to impress anybody else.

6. *BONUS* – Find a Mentor – I am extremely blessed to have found several mentors throughout my time in (and out of) museums. These are people who helped to mold me as a museum leader, who took an interest in my education and my career, and were there any time I needed to call and ask advice about anything. Mentorship cannot be a forced relationship. Find somebody whose personality meshes with yours, they have to be willing to be a mentor and take interest in you, and have something to offer. I’ve called upon my mentors for everything from salary questions, to asking for advice about terrible collections and loans mix-ups, to just having an ear to air my frustrations in the workplace. Mentors are an invaluable resource. I am thankful for each and every one I have.

Have other tips? Please share them in the comments section so that others may see them.

And again, any emerging, or current, or past, museum professionals that have a question or just want to chat museums, feel free to contact me directly. It’s my favorite thing to talk about. I’m a good ear, a strong opinion, and a smiling face.


How I Landed a Museum Job

I see so many, hundreds at least, of comments on listservs, message boards, e-mails, etc., from young museum professionals asking questions about whether it’s feasible to work in museums right now or not. Should I go to school for museum professions? Will I ever get a paid job? Does my internship count as qualifiable experience? My answer? Yes.

To all my fellow emerging museum professionals out there, this is my story.

After working in so many museums and getting my bachelors degree in Public Relations, I felt I had learned more of what not to do than what to do. I wanted to be able to do right by my profession and not just make it up as I go. I wanted in depth, correct education about how to design exhibits and handle artifacts, etc.

I graduated with my Masters of Museum Professions in May 2012.  At the age of 25, I had 11 years of experience in museums under my belt. From small town historical societies to The British Museum in London, my time included 2 degrees, 5 internships, 3 jobs, and 7 museums around the world. I had done a little bit of everything in a lot of different places.

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I began applying for jobs in late March all over the world; from Saudi Arabia to New York to London and Maine, many positions of which I was sure I  stood no chance at even landing an interview. I was turned down a couple of times, rejected a few offers that didn’t feel right, and just plain didn’t hear back about most of my meticulously labored over applications. When the Executive Director of the Boone County Historical Society, which operates four 100+ year old museums, position came up I applied right away. I knew I wanted to get out of the Jersey/NYC area for awhile and Iowa was close to my family.

The big question, however, was will they give a 25 year old that kind of responsibility AND power? I had a phone interview,  was flown in for an in-person interview (an affair which lasted 8 hours), and within days I was offered the job. Perhaps the Board of Directors and I see it differently, but there are a few things distinct things which I think landed me this position at my age.

1. I was sure of myself. I may be young, but I have a lot of experience and knew I had a lot to offer this museum having come from museums in both a better and, more importantly, a worse state.

2. I asked them questions. During my in-person interview I called the Board out. I asked each of them to share why it is they sit on the Board of Directors of the Boone County Historical Society. I received some interesting answers, answers that have helped inform me about working with some of my Board.RedTape

3. I told them that they would have to be ready to accept what it was they were asking me to do. Change. Change the museum, change the operation, change the exhibits, change the community perception, change the branding, and on and on. It was something the Board knew was necessary but before taking the job I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to try and accomplish something they were going to slap a bunch of red tape all over.

I’m not recommending you try this at home. Museum job interviews are not a formula. EVERY. SINGLE. MUSEUM is so incredibly different, no two interviews should be handled the same. If I would have posed that question to another board (let’s say the MET) I may or may not have been laughed off the face of the planet, who knows. I’m not saying my own Board is any lower caliber than the MET’s because they aren’t. They are both a group of people passionate about their respective institutions, whose mission they are entrusted with serving. The MET is just a different type of board with different expectations and history.

I have been in this position for just over a year and I have learned more about museums, people, working with communities, and collaboration than I ever thought was humanly possible. More on my actual experience as a museum director at a later date. Join me next post for my Five Tips (and a bonus) to Landing that First Museum Job.

Oh yeah, and lastly, any emerging, or current, or past, museum professionals that have a question or just want to chat museums, contact me directly. It’s my favorite thing to talk about. I’m a good ear, a strong opinion, and a smiling face.


Let’s try this again

Friends,

It has been more than a year since I blessed my website with my presence. Let’s just say, there has been A LOT going on. I finished my Master’s Degree in Museum Professions (New Jersey), moved back to Iowa, took a job as the Executive Director of four different museums in Boone, IA, have done a ton of things, ANNNNNNNND got a puppy.  It has been a very busy year indeed.

I’d like to get back to this blogging thing and am going to make an attempt to make that happen at least once a week. I have many things I’ve been wanting to write about, but at the end of the day I usually find myself going back to work instead of sitting down doing something else I want. I won’t try to go back and make up for the last year, we’ve done that before… it’s intensive. Instead, I’m going to start over and will again be writing primarily on museum topics (sorry folks, it’s my life and it’s amazing), but also some personal things and other randomness.

Today, two things. First a brief review of the ridiculous amounts of things I’ve been doing. Second, the last year in ten pictures to get you up to speed. I just made that up by the way and haven’t even looked at my photos to see if that is possible. Challenge accepted.

My most recent goings-on have included the circus (yay!), a wedding in St. Louis, a lot of golf, some 5K runs, 5d movie theater, steak and pumpkin carving party, a yacht rock party, interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show, Covered Bridge Festival, Civil War Reenactment, Henry Doorly Zoo, Discover the Dinosaurs, Iowa Museum Association Conference in Sioux City, an apple orchard, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been having some fun. The last month has been heavily focused on going to the theatre with Marco.  Four musicals in four weeks. My reviews, in sort of brief:

Memphis: Excellent. The cast was great and the show was fun, not to mention the choreography.

Book of Mormon: Extremely funny, though the humor was just a LITTLE too crude for me at times.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County: Now this one I HAVE to talk about. It was bizarre. Anybody who knows me knows that I am/was a huge Stephen King fan. So to see a horror musical by he and John Mellencamp was extremely intriguing. Brief background, in 1967 brothers are fighting over a girl and one dies the other commits suicide with the girl. Come to present day and their nephews seem to be headed towards the same fate. Ghost Brothers is about their father trying to save them from what he saw happened to his older brothers.

I would actually call this a country tragedy.  Though the actors were talented, all having  interesting voices, the music itself was not what I expected. The reviews I read beforehand were right on target, this show was extremely disjointed and in no way “spooky”. I wanted so much more creep factor and just couldn’t seem to find it. In a couple of the numbers it began to eek out in accordion riffs and dark lyrics. No spoilers,but the worst part was at the end when momentum was building and you start to think you could actually start “feeling” the play, one of the three narrators (the bad conscience) makes several very poor timed jokes. Overall consensus, see it if you get comped tickets like we did.

Wicked: This Friday! I’ve already seen this show and loved it, I hope this cast is just as great.

Now for the part people like, pictures! Things I LOVED about the last year or so.

Graduation with two of my favorite people on the East coast.

Graduation with two of my favorite people on the East coast.

Getting to spend more time with my family.

Getting to spend more time with my family.

Perk of my job, riding in a 1935 Detroit electric car.

Perk of my job, riding in a 1935 Detroit electric car.

Learning how to snowboard and fracturing my tailbone. Can't wait to get out this winter.

Enjoying my nieces and nephews. Dancing at the Maquoketa Caves here.
Enjoying my nieces and nephews. Dancing at the Maquoketa Caves.
Meeting this guy, Marco. Also, discovering how purely joyous playing in a pool of corn is.

Meeting this guy, Marco. Also, discovering how purely joyous playing in a pool of corn is.

The birth of lil' Miss Allie Rose Schwartz, my niece.

The birth of lil’ Miss Allie Rose Schwartz, my niece.

So, this is near where I work. Amazing!

This is near where I work. Amazing!

Becoming the proud owner of Sprout.

Becoming the proud owner of Sprout.


Illuminating the Barnes – Friend or Faux?

I have now spent countless hours (thanks to Steve Miller,a mentor and dear friend’s e-mails and the clickable nature of the internet) reading reviews about the “new Barnes Foundation“. People seem to like it or they don’t. I am of the latter group. For a VERY brief review of the history of the Barnes you can read my last post. What makes the Barnes so unique are the seemingly (though they are not) random ensembles of master paintings, metal work, and furniture. Below is an example of one of Barnes’ ensembles, image from The Barnes Foundation Collection Gallery Guide I.

As I know not all of my readers are museum or legal professionals, I want to begin by explaining a little bit about the Indenture of Trust which Barnes created for his Foundation. The Indenture of Trust, along with the Bylaws, set forth the Foundation’s purposes, rules of governance, Board structure, etc. The Indenture included the following condition verbatim, “[a]ll paintings shall remain in exactly the places the are at the time of the death of Donor and his said wife.” (Information taken from the Fact Sheet I received at the May 10th press preview.) Pretty straight forward. BUT, just as Barnes had so much money he could buy many of the world’s most renowned paintings and hang them as he wished, the current Board and its funding corporations had enough money ($200,000,000) to ignore the Indenture and do as they wished for their own interests. Indenture denied.

First and foremost I find it ridiculous to let a group of corporations and private foundations pay for something that they did not fundamentally support in its original 12,000 sq. ft.  location, but if they can move it into Philadelphia and smatter their names all over it, sure they can spare a few million each. A mere 6 miles from its original home, the “Barnes in Philadelphia” touts the names of the Mellons, the Annenbergs, and corporate moguls such as PNC and Comcast. The building itself, a 93,000 sq. ft. bunker like block of hand-tooled Negev limestone, fitted on top with an as equally unappealing glass box, is home to the new faux Barnes. Several of the articles/reviews I read pointed out that what was once a structure dedicated to authenticity, where making copies of the art was strictly forbidden, a mere copy of the original exists; never to be the authentic historic Barnes again.

It’s hard to even know where to start, the new Barnes decimates almost everything the founder ever wanted for his carefully created collection.

Cut and dried, the issues with the new location:

  1. He wanted to keep his prized masterpieces out of Philadelphia and away from the likes of what Barnes referred to as “aesthetic whorehouses of art,” e.g. The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  2. He wanted to remain an educational center with an amazing art collection instead of an art museum with art courses.
  3. He wished to maintain the integrity of his collection by keeping it housed within the 1922 historical gem designed by Paul Cret.
  4. I highly doubt he would appreciate having one of the largest areas in the structure named after Annenberg, somebody who during his life he experienced an extreme distaste for.

    ‘The Light Court’ which bears the Annenberg name.

  5. Two classrooms have been inserted within the galleries for teaching. Barnes strongly believed the galleries were the classrooms and that all education should happen while surrounded by the artworks themselves.
  6. Matisse’s The Joy of Life has been removed from its location in the stairwell to a room in the floor plan that was originally used for Board meetings.

The Joy of Life, no longer in the stairwell.

Barnes created a masterpiece in his own right, separate from the stigma that is the white-walled, singularly hung art gallery of today.The Foundation’s 23 galleries provided a maze of aesthetic pleasure and study, a maze which is now dis-harmoniously interrupted by limestone and glass hallways with a view of the “garden in the gallery”. Other than this change in the gallery layout, most everything remains the same; the galleries are the same size, masterpieces and metal works hung the same. Minor changes have been made in the molding, window frames, windows and in the heights of the galleries to allow for clerestory lighting on the second floor.  So, all this trouble to exactly replicate the galleries and only gain a little bit of lighting? Why not enhance the original Barnes?

And, what is all of this about INCREASED ACCESSIBILITY? Gallery visitation is still being limited to 150 visitors at a time in the main galleries and there are only an additional 30 parking spaces provided. More so, the Barnes originated as an educational tool for “the common man”. What common man will be able to easily afford a date out with his family at $18 a head? For college students that’s at least three meals (or a WHOLE LOT of Ramen) they will be sacrificing for just one day’s entrance into the new Barnes.

Now I can’t  blame Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects for my not having a taste for modern architecture. A more in depth slideshow of the building is available at Philly.com. I also do not understand the randomness that is the “Barnes Totem” by Ellsworth Kelly at the entrance to the property. It appears to be a 40 ft. high stainless steel lightning rod shooting up from the ground and in no way visibly pays homage to the man who made the place possible. What ever happened to a good bronze likeness? However, during the press preview I fortunately had the opportunity of meeting, speaking, and touring with the architects, including landscape designer OLIN, around the building.  Though I don’t agree with the project, and don’t particularly enjoy the architecture, I appreciated many of the things they had to say about working on the project.

The exterior of the Barnes and the ‘Barnes Totem’.

Me and architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams

Interesting notes from the architects:

  1. They do not consider themselves to be ‘starchitects’, the architects who do whatever they wish with a building so that it screams their name. They felt they were there simply to interpret the Barnes and the visions of the Board.
  2. A common question asked by many is the obvious why didn’t they expand the galleries, make them bigger and brighter? Williams explained with an interesting analogy, that if a face gets fatter, the features (e.g. eyes, mouth, lips, etc) do not also grow but stay the same size. So you end up with a tiny little face within a big fat head.  Even if the gallery were to be expanded the artworks do not grow, and in order to be hung similarly you would end up with too much random open space.
  3. The architects REALLY enjoy being able to do everything with extreme exactitude, just like Barnes… So much that they even talked the Barnes into taking them over to Jerusalem to pick out the limestone for the building. I wonder why they didn’t choose the Indiana limestone? Regardless, it is beautiful and is presented in three distinct, hand-tooled patterns of varying colors, including a cuneiform pattern which resembles writing.

    Hand-tooled cuneiform Negev limestone.

  4. In addition to the aforementioned point, the architects were able to emphasize one level of quality; the bathrooms are the same as the galleries. Indeed, at least for the women each stall is actually like its own little suite with an individual sink and mirror. I daresay that if they would have built standard, yet elegant restrooms, they could have almost endowed a fellow small museum.
  5. I asked what the architects felt their biggest challenge was in completing the project. Due to the controversial nature of the project, Billie Tsien answered that she was entirely unaware of how many extremely vituperative people there are in the world who lashed out at them for having taken the project. Tsien mentioned, however, that the organization (the Board of the Barnes) protected them as best they could.

Though I in no way support the move of the Barnes, I greatly enjoyed my trip and the opportunity to attend the press preview, compliments of one Steven Miller. Look for his upcoming article in Museum Magazine, published by AAM.  Though we agree to disagree about the Barnes, I’m sure you’ll find his article witty and optimistic about the future of the Barnes.  He much less grouchy than I. Side note: I send a BIG thank you his way for his continued efforts in stowing me away to events I would otherwise be unable to attend, for his witicisms, and his continuing support.

Enjoying the Barnes Foundation.

In conclusion, I feel we have lost an important piece of American history. Philadelphians. and citizens of Merion, should be disappointed in themselves as they, especially, have allowed an important story in their ancestry to be permanently deleted; the story of industry and the uprising of art appreciation in Philly, now encased within a limestone and glass box mausoleum.


The Barnes Foundation – In Original Review

I wrote the following blog post more than a year ago. There is no good reason why I never posted it, but now there is an excellent purpose for me to post it.  The following post is one I wrote in January 2011, following a visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the press preview of the NEW Barnes Foundation, relocated and entirely refurbished on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. More on Thursday’s experience in my next post, but for now, I’d like to share my original and unaltered post to provide a comparison for my thoughts on yesterday’s visit.

Today a friend and I took a couple hour drive to Merion, PA to visit the Barnes Foundation. For those of you outside the field, built and designed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation houses an amazing collection of paintings and decor.  The travesty is that the board has decided to completely uproot the principles and setting of this art and move it into a modern building in Philly. After discussing the case in several of my classes, with multiple professors, I am still gravely against the move for several reasons.

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The BF case is littered with ethical and legal issues.  A history of corruption, selfishness and politicking are amongst the many reasons why the Barnes is failing today.  Perhaps it was partially poor foresight on the part of the creator, but the majority of the destruction was committed by its very own board members.  At the time of Barnes’ death in 1951, though much had already happened, the battle of the Barnes had just begun. The current board of trustees now has hopes of wiping out the indenture all together, removing all wishes Barnes originally had for his carefully built collection.

This wonderful historic site is being wrenched from its home in Lower Merion Township and moved into the city Barnes so greatly insisted on staying out of, in order to “save” the organization.  Billions of dollars have been given by Foundations and companies to move the Barnes, companies who are not willing to give in order to save the Barnes in its current location.  A new building, unlike the collection’s original home in Merion, will house the collection along with several additional features.

These things aside, the BF contains an astounding collection conservatively valued at over $6 billion and boasts more than 180 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 18 Rousseaus and 14 Modiglianis. Each room was designed and arranged in a very specific manner by Barnes. Metal works including keys, hinges, clasps etc. adorn the walls amongst the paintings and drawings. Intended as an educational tool, students are meant to be taught within the galleries about appreciating art and understanding aesthetics and design.

A big disappointment of the day was that they had the second floor galleries closed to the public, unbeknownst to us before arriving. Secondly, the staff at the Barnes seem to go out of their way to make the place unwelcoming. I wonder if in a new location staff will be taught to smile.

What wasn’t at all disappointing on Mallary and my’s trip to Philly? An authentic cheesesteak covered in cheez whiz at Geno’s!

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University of Northern Iowa – A Declining Institution

I never thought I would have to be disappointed in my alma mater.  Typically people brag about where they came from, from where they received their education. Not me, not anymore.

Effective June 30, 2012 The University of Northern Iowa will be closing the doors to its 120 year old museum.  This is truly a disappointment you can read about at this site.   The university is administering budget cuts to the museum, printing services, and athletics.  Athletics looks to receive a slash of $500,000 and the $200,000 cut to the museums will close their doors permanently. Hmmm… with those amounts you can certainly see where the school lay its priorities in the first place.

Students enjoying the UNI Museums, image borrowed from UNI Museums website

Thousands upon thousands of people use the museum for educational purposes each year.  Not only that, students who research and intern at the museum have lost this opportunity.  The school is taking this wonderful resource away from its students, its classes and its community. The museum is an accredited institution and recognized for its value and excellence by the American Association of Museums.  This small museum has pulled in exhibitions of amazing magnitude from places like The Smithsonian Institution and The Field Museum. But folks, don’t be sad… you can still go watch us loose a game every once in a while.

I interned with the museum for two years while at UNI, as with many other students, and it has been an invaluable resource in my career.  That museum led me to where I am today; receiving my Master of Arts in Museum Professions.  Maybe some people don’t get it.  See below the mission statements of these three entities.

Excerpt from The University of Northern Iowa’s mission statement:

It is imperative that the quality of the university’s instruction be maintained and enhanced though increasingly strong emphasis on:

(1) General or liberal education as the most essential ingredient for the undergraduate student,

(2) the central importance and complementary relationship of teaching and research,

(3) enrichment of instruction through extensive clinical, laboratory and field experiences, and independent study, and

(4) development of the life of the university community itself as an effective educational force.

Excerpt from the University of Northern Iowa Museums’ mission statement:

The University of Northern Iowa Museums & Collections contribute to the education, research, and public service missions of the University through educational programming, exhibition, collection, and preservation.

For the campus and general public, the Museums foster lifelong learning and the exchange of ideas, as well as a respect for our natural resources and the human heritage of the world.

Lastly, an excerpt from The University of Northern Iowa Athletics mission statement:

We will offer compelling experience for the student-athlete and for our campus community and will provide a diverse environment steeped in integrity, values and vitality. We are committed to equitable opportunities for all students, student-athletes and athletic department staff including women and minorities. Our programming offerings, our recruitment of both students and staff, and our career enhancement opportunities for staff will reflect this commitment to equity and diversity. Further, we are totally committed to the NCAA principles of sportsmanship and ethical conduct and nothing short of complete and total adherence to the principles and guidelines subscribed to by the NCAA in these critical areas will be tolerated or accepted.

Teaching is our core, positive growth and development of student-athletes is our goal and the highest level of performance both in the classroom, in social settings, and on the field of play is our target outcome.

Whose mission statements most closely align?  Sports are even MENTIONED in the mission of the university. Where should cuts really be being made? You mean to tell me that UNI will FUND 15 university sports team, but it won’t fund a 120 year old educational institution that benefits both its students and community?  The athletics’ mission states teaching is their core, but what do you learn from throwing a ball in a hoop? What do other students learn from watching you do that?  Leave it to an EDUCATIONAL ENTITY to cut funding to another educational entity in order to save one based on ENTERTAINMENT.  Don’t assume I was a museum geek in school and that’s why I’m bitter about athletics. That’s not the case, I played sports in college and I loved every minute of it. BUT, it DID NOT contribute to my future.  I couldn’t help but laugh at this quote in an article I read about the athletic department’s cuts:

“This time, much of the pain is going to be internal. We might have to hold off on new uniforms and equipment. We might have to eliminate some positions, though not coaching in year one.” as stated by athletic director Troy Dannen.

FOR SHAME! How DARE the University reduce your budget to $3.5 million so you can’t get new uniforms every year. How DARE you not have the latest in basketballer trend.

But, there is one thing Dannen was right about, the pain for UNI is going to be internal.  That pain will be felt by every student, every faculty, staff and community member who rely on the museum as an educational tool.

The University Museum, image borrowed from UNI Museums website

I am truly disappointed in UNI and how it has decided upon its priorities. Athletics as a priority over education has always been in issue in America, I just never thought that poor decision would be made by someplace I was once so proud as to call my home.


Swallowed up in Museums

It has been a busy semester…err semester and a half. I seem to have disappeared, being swallowed up by life, immediately after the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Annual Meeting. Much has happened, most everything EXCELLENT!

Last September, for  my course ‘Creating an Exhibition’, we had the opening of an exhibition I co-curated with a fellow classmate, “The Way, The Truth, The Life: Sacred artifacts from Seton Hall’s Collections.” Below is a  picture taken at the opening. You can expect a full blog post (and more pictures) on this experience soon!

For those of you who read my last post about strategizing museum internships, you know how interested I am in the subject of internships within the museum field. Speaking at this conference, and subsequent conversations to it has inspired me to craft my thesis about professional guidelines and best practices in creating and/or improving museum internship programs. In brief, my thesis will contain three sections:

  1. The first section of this thesis seeks to define the term internship and to differentiate it from volunteer and paid professional positions. It also categorizes internships in a number of types relevant to the museum field.
  2. The second section is a guide for museums hoping to create and/or improve an internship program within their institution and will provide a template and examples of how to begin a formal program for graduate and/or recently post-graduate students, based on materials gathered from several museums and academic institutions.
  3. The third section is a guide for students searching for an internship that will give them the type of experience that will qualify them for their career ahead and shares tips and tricks on finding the right internship, applying for it and then interviewing the institution to make sure it is the best possible fit for them.

Upon completion of this thesis I hope to launch a website I have been working on to make my thesis/guide available to museums, for free, across the world.  I hope that it will empower museums (especially smaller institutions) to create effective and valuable internship programs.  I also hope to host on this site an ongoing internship listing, free to all museums, students, and museum professionals. If any readers, museum professionals, internship coordinators at museums or universities have thoughts please feel free to contact me.

"Urban Owl" By Tricia Zimic

Though you may not believe it, I have many other things going on in life besides my thesis (okay, not TOO much, but some things).  I am currently working for a wonderful artist, Tricia Zimic, as her promoter, graphic/web designer, and all-out assistant.  My latest project though is attempting to independently curate a show including her work, as well as several other artists alike in theme.  Wish me luck, this is really my first time as an “independent” curator. Any advice is welcome.

Just last week I finally secured an internship. Internship AND Thesis in one semester you ask? That’s right! That’s what I get for working too many hours at paid jobs and not spending enough time getting an unpaid one in a museum! Story of the emerging museum professionals’ life.  My internship will be doing a sort of exhibition research and design at the Montclair Historical Society.  You all know my love of all things historical society AND historic house museum.  I’ll be keeping a journal for this internship, so you can expect more regular blog updates (I hope!).

Next week I am lucky enough to have been asked by the couple I nanny for to go to Aspen, CO for nine days, all expenses paid, in return for watching their two lovely little girls for only a portion of the trip.  How can one pass up such an opportunity? My plan, some babysitting, some tanning, lots of snow-shoeing (I’m not a particularly adept skier), and even MORE time sitting fireside working on my thesis.  Is it weird that I am looking forward to my vacation to have quiet-time to do my homework?

Annnnddddddd………….because blog posts without pictures are BOR-ING, here is one of my favorite pictures from my wonderful time spent at home in Iowa for Christmas. My adorable nephew Easton!


Strategizing Museum Internships to Meet (and Manage) Everyone’s Expectations – MAAM

What are the differences between an internship and a volunteer position? What is a good internship? A good intern?  These were just a few of the questions discussed in this panel with Dr. Petra Chu, Seton Hall University, Antonia Moser, Newark Museum, myself Pam Schwartz, student at Seton Hall University, and Pam Veenbaas, Smithsonian Institution.

Presenting four different perspectives from the point of view of an educator, an internship supervisor, a student and an internship coordinator, the panel discussed how to strategize internships in a way that can provide value to both the institution and the intern.

I have been fortunate to have interned at several types and sizes of museums, under many different personalities.  From my perspective, I find the most important things an institution can do are organize, communicate and evaluate.

  1.  When considering advertising for an intern, sit down and brainstorm all of the tasks/projects they can do.  It is better to have more items than to have a bored intern.
  2. Write appropriate postings.  Do not mislead an intern into thinking they will learn something they will not, or that nobody at the institution themselves knows how to do.
  3. Involve us in day-to-day activities.  It is not hard to let an intern sit in on a meeting or seminar and you might be surprised at what we can learn simply by attending.
  4. On the first day be clear about your expectations with the intern.  Your policies on dress, attendance, arriving late, professionalism etc.  You should also make it clear who the intern will report to.
  5. Provide your intern with some form of evaluation part-way through the internship.  This lets you inform the intern of their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to be aware of what they should improve upon.

The most important things an intern can do are communicate, be honest and evaluate.

  1.   When applying or interviewing for an internship, be prepared with questions and interview the museum as much they interview you.  You will be dedicating a large amount of time to the institution and you should be careful that it will be a good fit and you will gain from the internship what you hope to.
  2. If you don’t like your internship part way in, are unhappy or do not feel like you are gaining what you had hoped, then just be honest.  Tell your supervisor. If they don’t know you are unhappy, then it is hard for them to remedy the situation.
  3. Evaluate your internship in the same way your supervisor might evaluate you.  Is it meeting your expectations? Are you engaging in the activities you thought you would?

Pam Veebaas is an internship coordinator for the Smithsonian Institution, who has more than 1200 interns a year.  One important aspect of her job is screening internships applicants to ensure they are being chosen as candidates to learn a certain skill, not being chosen for the skills that they already have. The Smithsonian Institution defines an internship as:

“An internship at the Smithsonian Institution is a prearranged, structured learning experience that takes place within a specific time frame. The experience should be relevant to the stated academic and/or professional goals of the intern and to the disciplines represented at the Institution.”

I feel this is an excellent definition of what an internship should be and how it differs from a volunteer position.

Antonia Moser, registrar at the Newark Museum, discussed the necessity her institution has for interns and all the amazing opportunities they have to offer.  As a mid-sized institution in a difficult economy, interns have much to offer the museum and the museum in return can give the intern qualified experience in their field.

An interesting point Antonia brought up was about the difficulties sometimes had with enforcing professionalism in interns.  Often, the students are not being paid and making certain demands of their time, punctuality and dress may be daunting for supervisors.  However, internships are a study in the real life of a student’s chosen career field and they should be expected to act appropriately.  Again, communication is key: supervisors should be upfront immediately about punctuality and dress or professional expectations for students.  Supervisors should also not forget to lead by example!

Dr. Chu, department head of Museum Professions at Seton Hall University discussed the difference between an internship and a volunteer position.

Most interns are students paying to receive academic credit from their internship. Because of this, students should receive training/education equivalent to a (usually) three credit course at their home institution, which applies to their career field.

There is also the differentiation between an internship and what should be a paid position.

The U.S. Department of Labor defines six criteria for determining between these.

From an academic standpoint, Petra struggles with museums offering “internships” that are not providing students with qualified experience.  An institution should not offer an internship merely to get the work done because they themselves cannot complete it, or  because they themselves do not know how.


MAAM and a Discussion With Myself

Many of you may remember my posts last year at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Conference last year as a fellowship recipient.  This year I had the honor of attending as a session speaker.  MAAM, once again,  has definitely not failed in centering and rejuvenating my passion for all things museum.  After attending several thought-provoking sessions and luncheons I’m left with a million thought and new ideas.

My name is Pam and I WILL change museums.

This is a modified version of a quote from Nina Simon, this year’s Stephen Weill Ketnote Speaker and author of The Participatory Museum.  The modification being that I changed the word “want” to the word “will”.  I will be a museum revolutionary, I just need to find my niche.  What do I have to offer?  What purpose/idea do I want to pursue?  You see… I’m already getting off topic, back to MAAM.

But, my mind is million miles an hour.  This same sort of question is arising as I begin researching thesis topics.  What can I write about that is original, new, interesting and most importantly can make a difference?I love historic house museum, genealogy and inventive sustainability tactics for the survival of museums.  These things all greatly interest me, but what do I want to spend months writing sixty some pages about?

As I mentioned, I was a speaker at this year’s conference in a panel about internships organized by Petra Chu, Department Head at Seton Hall University in Museum Professions, where I’m getting my Masters.  My full post on our session will come later, but in keeping with my point (if I have one), our session made me consider the importance of internships both to the institution and to the intern.

So many people have questions about them and as far as I know there really isn’t a type of “master guide” to having and/or getting museum internships.  How should an institution create an intern program? Advertise one?  Manage interns? How can an intern land an internship? Get the most from one?

I’ve had several internships, all great in some way but also some with things that weren’t so great.  There aren’t too many in-depth resources for museum employees or interns/emerging professionals.  Maybe I should/could do that.  Try to help museums AND students with resources, how-to’s, do’s and don’ts.  I could get started by doing my thesis on hosting effective internship programs and on being an effective intern both for yourself and the museum you’re at.

Is there a need for this? Any sort of interest?MAAM session posts coming soon!


Rome Day 8 – Lovely Day for a Strike

Our last day in Rome together there was an incredible transportation strike and let’s just say, it couldn’t have worked more to our advantage. Our professor was incredibly upset, trying to figure out how to get us to the other side of Rome and back for our day’s activities. So, we decided to get up early and hoof it and it turned out to be a beautiful day with us seeing several things we may otherwise not have.

The main stop was to be ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation & Restoration of Cultural Property) but as we were walking there it just so happened we passed S. Pietro in Vincoli, the location of Michelangelo’s Moses. We also enjoyed the beautiful views of Isola Tiburtina (Tiber Island), and all because of the strike!

Michelangelo's Moses, Santa Pietro in Vincoli

Isola Tiburtina

ICCROM was founded in 1956 by UNESCO and is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the conservation of cultural heritage.  We had the joy of hearing two employees speak, Paul Arenson, Manager, Knowledge and Communication Services, and Alison Heritage, Conservation Research Specialist.

ICCROM contributes to preserving cultural heritage in the world today and for the future through five main areas of activity:

  1. Training
  2. Information Source
  3. Research
  4. Cooperation
  5. Advocacy

5 Key Aspects of ICCROM

  1. Values
  2. Bridging gaps with communities
  3. Plurality of approaches (not one size fits all)
  4. Plurality of disciplines
  5. Plurality of contexts

ICCROM is a very interesting place and has an amazing research library.  It’s definitely a resource I’m going to keep in mind for the future.

We also visited two more churches (LOTS of churches in Rome).  The first was Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, a 5th century church in Rome, Italy, devoted to the Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia. The second was the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin, an 8th century church where the Bocca della Verita or the Mouth of Truth is located. Visually, this may have been my favorite church in Rome, simply because of its LACK in overwhelming shiny decor. The Mouth of Truth sculpture is thought to be part of a 1st century fountain and it is famed as a lie detector. Though it was really made famous by the movie Roman Holiday, it has been believed that since the middle ages that if one told a lie with one’s hand in the mouth, then it would be bitten off.  Rest assured friends, I still have my hand.

I only speak the truth!

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

This was a truly amazing and wonderful trip and I hope you have all enjoyed taking it with me via my blog (albeit a much LONGER blog trip then I had intended).  One cannot do Rome in eight days, but if I had to, I couldn’t have asked for better or more efficient guides than I had in Charlotte and her husband, Derek.  I learned an incredibly amount and saw more amazing things than I can even mention.

Farewell dinner