Category Archives: Schwartz Athenaeum

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.

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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

 


Orange Groves and Beautiful Views

Sunday was my sort of day in Rome, the weather was amazing and we visited incredibly interesting places…I’m going to leave out the fact that I did get pooped on by a bird while standing in a lovely orange grove atop a hill.

View from Rose Gardens, Aventine Hill

We began our day in one of the most depressing ways possible at the Museo Storico della Liberzione di Roma or the Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome.   During the Nazi occupation of Rome, approximately September 1943 through June 1944,this building was used as a detention prison by the Command of the Security Police.  A couple of the cells remain as was within the museum, with names and painful inscriptions carved into the walls of the cells by those detained there without light and little ventilation.  Several of the prisoners that were held here by the Nazis eventually met their demise during the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine, when ten Roman or Jewish prisoners were chosen to die in order to compensate for each single German that had been killed, totaling 335 people.  Though we did have limited packets of information in English, all of the exhibitions were in Italian, making it difficult to read the entire story.

Historic Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Next on to the Centrale Montemartini. I found this Museum to be absolutely fascinating because of the history of the institution itself.  The Museum is housed in what used to be the first public thermoelectric center in Rome (electricity plant).   Much of the hulking equipment and industrial machinery are still present in the building, which for a time had merely become offsite storage for the Capitoline Museums antiquity overflow.

In 1997 a structured exhibition was created in order to maintain accessibility by the public to these works of art, it was called “The Machines and the Gods”, which placed side by side classical art and industrial machinery.  I feel this is truly one excellent example of adaptive reuse and a perfect dichotomy of new existing with old. I especially enjoyed the use of soothing blues and greens for wall/accent colors as it helped to make peace of the transition between the harsh gray machines and the smooth tans and whites of many of the artifacts.

As far as our structured portion of the day, it was fairly short.  So far the rest of the afternoon Luciana and I headed out to Aventine Hill (another of the Roman hills) and it was absolutely lovely.  It was a peaceful afternoon of walking, sitting in the orange and lemon groves, looking at beautiful churches with more beautiful views, rose gardens and the absolute BEST view of all of Rome (or so I think).

Santi Bonifacio e Alessio, gorgeous!

On Aventine Hill there is a keyhole in a door to a garden.  If one looks through the keyhole you see down a shrub lined path with a sunlit opening at the very end.  Through this opening at the end you see a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s.  Now I thought this might be a little hokey but after seeing it I think I would definitely put it on the list of things one must do in Rome.  It is unfortunately hard to take a picture of this glorious view, especially with my brick of a camera so I’ll have to cite somebody else here.  Alas, another wonderful day in Rome.

What my camera saw at Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta.

What I ACTUALLY saw through the keyhole! Photo from http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Villa_Malta


Rome and Contemporary Art…and Neon Lit Bathrooms

You all know me and contemporary art….

We visited two different contemporary art museums on our sixth day in the lovely city of Rome and were accompanied by Shara Wasserman, Professor of Contemporary Art and Gallery Director, Temple University in Rome, and visiting Critic Cornell University in Rome.  She was delightful, a very honest and witty guide to the city of Rome.  I’m sure Charlotte (our professor) appreciated a little break from insane tour guiding.

The first museum we visited was MAXXI (Museo Nazionale dell’arte dell XXI secolo) which was designed by Zaha Hadid.  For those of you who don’t know who that is, she is an extremely well known architect, who more recently designed the performing arts structure for the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi which I wrote about earlier.  Some of you may also know my thoughts on modern architecture and my feelings toward this building were not extremely favorable.

MAXII

Modern architecture is dirty.  Modern architecture contains a lot of interesting looking, but filthy little crannies. This structure had all open grated walkways and stairways built over lights so when you looked down all you saw was what seemed to be nearly impossible to clean spaces filled with dust, lint, and pennies.     Another interesting point, there was NO seating built into the structure.  Hmm.

Architecture at MAXII

Another aspect of this museum that I found interesting was that the Director of the museum is a government employee from the Ministry of Culture, they do not come from a museum background.  I’m beginning to find it more and more interesting (and challenging) to think about big company CEOs and business people taking over museums with no knowledge of how we roll, just the business aspect of thing.  However, one of the exhibitions that was on display was particularly interesting, both the exhibit itself and peoples’ reactions to it.

The exhibition was The Plexiglas and Mirror Paintings by Michelangelo Pistoletto.  It was a collection of mirrors that had been painted on with various scenes/people as you can see in the photograph below.  It was interesting to see people more interested in their own reflections and doing silly things in the mirror than actually paying attention to the art itself and the effect it created as a whole.  On one end of the exhibition was a very large mirror that reflected back over several of the other mirrors, creating depth and an intricate interlacing of the stories depicted in each individual mirror.  The thing I really disliked about this exhibition was that it was displayed in a very long rectangular exhibit space and though the mirrors were placed seemingly at random throughout the room, the text panel for each was on one of the room’s walls.  They were quite distant from their respective works.  No good.

Pistoletto Exhibition SpacePistoletto Exhibition

Second we went to MACRO (dell’Arte Contemporanea Roma), architecture by Odile Decq.  Again, very modern and you can see some similarities between the inside of the buildings.  One piece of art here that I found particularly interesting was by Ernesto Neto called When Nothing Happens. See the photograph but it was this incredible hanging THING. The hanging sacks were filled with various spices including black pepper, cumin, cloves, ginger, and turmeric.  Not only did it smell lovely but the colored spices also made the sculpture that much more interesting.

MACRO

MACRO Inside

Ernesto Neto Piece

This little drawing on the wall I felt could have been a portrait of me by Dan Perjovschi part of The Crisis is (Not) Over. Drawings and Dioramas. 

Also, MACRO had slam bangin’ bathrooms.  Usually it is socially unacceptable to wield a camera in a public restroom…but we all did it anyways.

We spent much more time in here than necessary.

The evening brought us to the Colosseum  at night.  BEAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUTIFUL.  I always wish there weren’t so many tourists everywhere I wanted to be a tourist… and enjoy myself peacefully.


The Vatican, ooof.

Vatican City from the Outside

The VATICAN! Need I say more? Readers, if you are interested in this sort of thing and plan to take a trip to Vatican City then I advise you block at least one entire week just for this little city. We spent an entire day there and I was so overwhelmed by the end we went almost immediately home. No more sightseeing was to be had.

The Vatican collections are vast, elaborate, beautiful and… well very very shiny. To use part of a quote from an anonymous Monsignor I had the opportunity to chat with, “we have an embarrassment of riches.” Embarrassment, I’d say. The Vatican has more money wrapped up in its artifacts and in the display of them that you could feed the world forever I think. We had an incredibly interesting meeting with Dott.ssa Alessandra Uncini, Head Registrar in the morning before beginning our walk-through.

The Royal Collection held at the Vatican was not a museum BORN as a museum, in 1506 Pope Julius II acquired the first statues that would later begin the collections. Collections were built through personal commissions of the Popes, Cardinals etc and also many artifacts were brought back by missionaries after travels to foreign lands. Like I mentioned with the Borghese collections, in 1798 when Napoleon overthrew the Pope and the museums many of the artifacts were taken away to Paris not to return until 1815 after Waterloo.

The Vatican Museum

This return was curated by Antonio Canova, a sculptor, and the Vatican Museums’ first curator. If you ‘d like to talk about a curator’s nightmare, absolutely no catalog was in existence for the more than 150,000 artifacts until the 1950s. The cataloging system was designed specially within the Vatican and allows them very careful tracking of the movement of any artifact. The Museum has an interesting setup which includes many employees but seven very specialized registrars who all report to ministry. Anymore there is very little acquisitions within the museums, and even less deaccessioning as in keeping with Italian common heritage and cultural identity – you DO NOT deaccession your own history. Best parts of the day – Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Both incredibly beautiful and true must see places if you go to Rome.

Outside of St. Peter's Basilica

Inside of St. Peter's

Inside of St. Peter's

Okay, earlier in this blog I may have lied but I COMPLETELY tried to block out of my mind what happened after the Vatican that day. A couple of my fellow classmates and I did a little souvenir shopping in some shops across from Vatican City. One of them you super stereotypical shop with key chains, shirts, hats, toys etc. was run by a little Asian family. We went in and were browsing and I saw a bottle opener key chain in the shape of Italy that was red, white and green. The perfect cheesy gift for my sister, right? I pick it up with intentions of buying it, and get super distracted by some scarves, I set the magnet on a shelf and immediately try them on for Luciana to approve.

We do this for like ten minutes, my pre-buying sense of my post-buyers remorse kicks in and I say NO and we walk out (myself forgetting all about the magnet). We’ve been down to a couple of other stores and are walking back the other way to catch a bus and WHAM, little Asian family is accosting me in the street and trying to tear my purse open. TERRIFYING, none of us had any idea what was going on, nor could we understand.

Then I realized they thought I stole the magnet, I walk back into the store with them still attached to me, the woman trying to unzip my purse, pick the magnet up off the shelf and hand it to the man who was screaming at me and pointing at the ceilings (about cameras I think). He stops, the woman…still trying to get into my purse, lucky for me she weighed maybe 100 pounds less than me, I knock her off and walk out of the store. Luciana and Erin staring on in pure terror. I’ve never been accosted like that before, especially after spending an entire day in one of the holiest places in the world. Honestly, I don’t steal and if I was going to it wouldn’t be at the risk of a 2 euro magnet. Notice Jenni, you never received this magnet. Ahhh, Rome.


Beautiful Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese (built 1613-16), what a beautiful place to begin the day, a wistful mansion retreat  built almost exclusively to house hundreds of Italian Masterpieces, not necessarily to live in.  We met first with Maria Assunta Sorrentino, Exhibitions Coordinator and Register, along with some of her colleagues.  The speakers explained how Borghese is one of 3,000 some federal museums in Rome.

Ceiling Painting, Galleria Borghese

Most any cultural institution in Rome is run by the government in some capacity, greatly influencing funding and their abilities to collaborate with other museums or institutions.  Though the collection here is massive a large portion of the original collection survives in Paris.  One of the Borghese sisters married Napoleon Bonaparte and during his raging plunder of European high culture and arts, the Galleria Borghese was not spared.  However, because of his relationship to the sister, the Borghese art was “sold” not stolen.

Hands down the most amazing things (for me at least) here are the collection of Bernini sculptures.  This man was a true artist and my “stolen” photos, aka hip shots, do no justice to the beauty of these pieces.  Every muscle, every expression, EVERY LITTLE THING is intricately perfect. Love, love, love.

Bernini Sculpture

After, we met with Manuela Cuccuru at the Gagosian Gallery to view the exhibition, “Made in Italy.”  There were some big name artists in the show including, Damien Hirst, if you remember my post about the Golden Dipped Cow.  However, you all know me and modern art, our relationship is fairly non-existent.  The meeting with Manuela was interesting however, learning about how they jury their shows and how they feel they are comparing to other galleries around Rome.  We spent a really long portion of our day at Borghese so we all sort of split ways at this point.

A small group of us travelled on over to the Cimeterio dei Cappuccini/Crypt of the Cappuchins.  This is sort of one of those weird things you think only exist on the travel channel. It’s a little crypt under a church, Santa Maria della Concezione, built by the Cappuchin monks out of the dead exhumed from a cemetery, and later their own relatives and brothers. Thousands of bodies literally adorn the walls and ceilings in intricate mosaics of random bones.  You have light fixtures made from spinal discs and walls stacked with skulls.

The bodies age from 1500 to the 1870s, though this particular crypt wasn’t in existence until 1631.  The bodies aging older than that were ordered to be moved from another cemetery in Rome. Unlike most people I wasn’t unsettled by being surrounded by so many dead bodies, I was struck by the fact that people had spent hours below ground with rotted/rotting corpses creating ornate designs in bones and fastening them to walls.  To each his own I suppose.