Right now, I'm in a Museum Studies graduate program at the University of Florida and this program also requires an internship. So as a result, I've done two museum internships-- one as an undergraduate (2007) and one as a graduate student (2010)-- so I'll answer the questions for both museums because they were very different museums and experiences.

Where did you do your internship?
Undergrad - Michigan Historical Museum (MHM), Lansing MI

Why did you pick the internship you did?
MHM- Two of the museum staff came to CMU to recruit interns, and they sold the museum pretty well, explaining all the varied experiences I could expect to have.

What were some of your favorite parts of your internship?
MHM - I was able to do a little bit of everything. In just a few months, I worked in education, exhibits, visitor services, evaluation, collections, and community outreach. As a result, I was really able to get a clear picture of the different functions of a museum, and decide what area was of the most interest to me.

What kind of jobs/activities did you participate in?
MHM - As I described above, I was involved in all sorts of areas in the museum. My projects and activities included:

  • Scheduling entertainment (dancers, singers, etc.) for the annual WinterFest event
  • Creating and administering visitor surveys
  • Leading group tours-mostly 4th grade
  • First person interpretation - 1880s school marm
  • Packing objects for a major collections move
  • Creating and installing an interactive exhibit component

Would you recommend this internship to other students?

MHM - It is my understanding that the museum has downsized its staff pretty drastically in recent months. I don't know how this may affect their internship program-it may mean they need extra intern help, allowing for some really unique and enriching experiences, or they may not have adequate staff to keep the intern program running. My intern experience was a positive one, so I would recommend the MHM as an internship location because of the institutions willingness to let students experiment with different departments.

Is there any other guidance you would offer students looking for internships?
Both of my internships sort of found me, so I don't have much advice for the searching/application process. However, as an intern, I think the most important quality is a willingness to create your own experiences. Whenever my supervisor was going to a meeting, I asked if I could tag along and take notes. I spent my lunch breaks walking around the galleries to familiarize myself with the collections and interpretive methods. I took guided tours of the museum and spoke with docents. I scheduled meetings for myself with managers and staff in all of the departments in which I had interest. It is important to exhibit a genuine interest in your field and in the institution itself. It goes along with that old adage: you get out only what you put in.

Please email jbelcoure@gmail.com if you have any questions.