Working for the Interns

Posted on August 9, 2019 by

Performance Counts: August 2019

JMM was thrilled to welcome five new interns for our 2019 summer internship program. Our ten-week program is designed to give those interested in the museum profession a chance to learn about the different departments of museum work and to work on substantial projects related to their specific area of interest. Throughout the summer they participate in a variety of activities and learning opportunities.

As tomorrow is the last day at JMM for most of our interns, we thought we’d have Development and Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman, who also serves as our summer internship coordinator, share a bit about the experience we provide for this month’s edition of Performance Counts. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

A significant goal of JMM’s summer internship program is helping our interns considering a career as museum professionals to get the broadest possible exposure to the field as a whole. To accomplish this, we not only include interns in the JMM workings (like observing staff meetings and education programs, participating in Museum Shop inventory, and assisting with the Annual Meeting) but also arrange workshops and field trips to other sites.

Fresh faces for the summer!

Before we get into those details, refresh your memory about this summer’s intern class with their introductions here. And here’s a few more numbers for you: this year’s summer interns come to us from three states: New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. They attend four different colleges: Goucher College, Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, and Albright College. Between the five interns there are seven majors ranging from sociology to history to family science, and six different minors, including museums and society, evolutionary studies, and near eastern studies. (This group is definitely academically motivated!)

This year we were able to offer our interns nine professional development workshops, led by JMM staff: Collections Handling and Intro to Past Perfect with Joanna Church; Museum Evaluation as well as Museum Accessibility with Paige Woodhouse; Planning Public Programs with Trillion Attwood; Supporting Trans and Gender Expansive Visitors with Talia Makowsky; Project Management with Tracie Guy-Decker; Development & Stewardship in a Museum Setting with Tracey Dorfmann; Ethics of Museum Management with Marvin Pinkert; and Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviewing with me. Some of these workshops – like collections handling and museum evaluation – are put to good use immediately. For instance, if you’ve visited our current exhibits, Fashion Statement and Stitching History, recently, you may have been met by an intern with a clipboard ready to ask you about your experience as they try out their new museum evaluation skills.

Oh the places you’ll go!

Our summer interns also participated in seven field trips to other cultural institutions, visiting: the Rare Books & Manuscripts at Walters Art Museum for a program with their curator; the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House for their Flag Day celebrations; the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, including a behind-the-scenes talk with their education department; the National Aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center, a full day exploring a variety of Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC; and as part of our Summer Teachers Institute, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Visionary Arts Museum. And after each experience we have our interns write a personal thank you note to the tour guides and professionals who took time out of their days to speak with us.

From the minds of interns.

To further develop our interns’ professional skills, we ask them to write – a lot. Each intern is assigned two individual blog dates over the summer. They may choose any topics they like, as long as the post is related in some way to their internship and museums. Often their posts are inspired by the projects they are working on, like Hannah’s discovery of Ernestine Rose, the “First Jewish Feminist,” and Elana’s sense of connection to  Lilie and Aaron Straus. Megan reflected on her experience helping with two very different development events, and Mallory shared specifics of two different collections she has focused on – one about the Hutzler family (of department store fame) and the other on Har Sinai Congregation. Ariella took a holistic view, asking what it actually means to “work at a museum.”

In response…

In addition to their individual posts, interns are also asked to write a “weekly response.” The topics of these responses cover a lot of ground. Some weeks they were provided with articles about issues and trends in the museum field, like neutrality or education, and asked to synthesis a response. In other weeks they were asked to research and recommend other Museums’ offerings, like social media accounts, exhibits, and podcasts. And, of course, we asked them to reflect on and apply their learning from their internships throughout the summer, from museum evaluation after the accompanying workshop to a midterm check in on week five to today’s post on the end of their internships.

I have been impressed all summer by the thoughtfulness and work ethic of our summer interns. Getting a chance to teach and guide folks in the early stages of their career journeys is incredibly rewarding and here at JMM we want to make sure that we give as much to our interns as they give to us! I’m already getting excited thinking about next summer and a new group of interns.

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