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The Power of a Paid Internship: Creating pathways to careers in museums


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Our internship model is a carefully crafted learning experience in which mentors work closely with interns to develop goals throughout the semester. Interns are evaluated at the conclusion of the term through presentations that look holistically at their experience and progress. Each intern is placed within a specific department, such as development and fundraising, media relations and marketing, curatorial, collections management, or the director’s office. Weekly meetings across departments provide internal networking opportunities which allow the interns to learn about other roles within the museum and how they function within the organization. Ultimately, this provides an in-depth, firsthand experience in a specific department while also promoting a comprehensive understanding of all moving parts within the Phillips. Interns are each assigned a mentor from their department. The mentors ensure the interns work on projects that align with their interests and career goals, as well as assist them to strengthen skills they already have and develop in areas they have yet to experience.

During the first paid internship cycle in fall 2018, the Phillips received a four hundred percent increase in the number of applications from previous cycles. The seven selected interns represented diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, as we shifted to focus on intentional engagement with leaders and students from a wide array of four-year colleges, universities, and community colleges. At the end of the semester, interns presented the results of their work in formal presentations to museum staff, outlining the projects they worked on and illustrating the impact they had on the Phillips. The presentations were professional-grade, with a goal of being included in the intern’s personal portfolios for future use.

To further engage with younger audiences, in summer 2018 the Phillips launched an initiative that offered free admission to visitors ages thirty and under. Attracting younger generations is crucial to developing a more diverse and inclusive art world, particularly among an age cohort that is just entering the workforce, or may be struggling with student debt. By providing admission-free entrance, we aim to reduce another financial barrier to access for our audiences and community, in order to best create an experience and dialogue that is welcoming to all.

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