Curation and Connection: The Museum Interns

Madison Ballou, Staff Writer

Colgate University boasts a total of four museums and galleries — impressive for its relatively small campus. Included in the four are the Linsley Geology Museum, Clifford Gallery, Longyear Museum of Anthropology and the Picker Art Gallery. The Longyear Museum of Anthropology is home to culturally significant objects from all over the world, including Africa, Oceania, Europe and the Americas. Similarly, the Picker Art Gallery offers students, faculty and other community members the opportunity to experience art across different cultures and periods of time with the 11,000 fine art objects in their possession. To enhance the learning experience between students and these art pieces, the museums also offer student internships. 

Students interning at the museums expect to spend around 8-10 hours per week on a variety of projects offered to them. Some tasks involved in exhibition development work include research, label writing and design work for shows. These jobs allow students to understand the behind-the-scenes components that go into creating the displays that people see when they visit museums. Senior Audrey Chan, an Art and Art History concentrator, has participated in all of these undertakings but has now moved on to more deeply involved projects. 

“Recently, I wrote an acquisition proposal to add new artwork to the Picker’s collection, and I am currently working on some interpretive materials for the museum’s YouTube channel as a part of the Student Standpoint series,” shared Chan. 

Aside from the ability to complete this kind of work, Chan believes that interns must also have a love of art and history, like herself. 

“My passion for art began in my early childhood, as my first career aspiration was to become an artist. In my spare time and through college courses, I’ve enjoyed drawing, printmaking, metalsmithing and other visual art-making forms,” Chan said. 

Senior Ally Griffith, a history concentrator from Kansas City, MO, shares Chan’s love of art. However, rather than being a creator of art, she is a passionate observer. 

“I had always loved visiting art museums, especially the Nelson Atkins in Kansas City. I was also fascinated by the gallery that my parents’ friend ran and was interested in the behind-the-scenes of both museums and galleries,” Griffith explained. 

Sophomore Leah Massa, who is currently working on curating a working bibliography for the museum book and catalog collections, shared one more requirement of those hoping to work as a museum intern. 

“You have to have the personality for it. I would definitely recommend someone who is Type A — ambitious, excellent at time management, organized and proactive — and someone who is able to work independently, while still able to take constructive contributions from others,” Massa said. 

If you feel you are a perfect fit for the job, museum curating offers a magnitude of benefits. 

I hope to pursue a career in the museum field, and I have been lucky enough to cultivate skills that are important for the workforce through Colgate’s museums. The people at University Museums are incredible and have taught me so much over the years. I love the hands-on experience of working for a gallery and seeing student voices in the content released by the campus museums,” said Chan.  

For those unsure of their future career path, but know they have a love for art and history, Massa shares her experience working as an intern:

I just started [in the role] this semester, but so far, I have really enjoyed meeting my coworkers and having access to the school’s museum archival materials. I have also gotten the opportunity to find new artists that I really like through this internship like Marko Maetamm and Diane Arbus,” shared Massa.

In museum curating lies the potential to learn global perspectives and gain working experience.  It’s no easy job, but the payoff has proven worthwhile for these interns.