Every year, History of Art and Museums Studies students take on new and challenging opportunities at museums and institutions throughout the country - and sometimes beyond. These internships are often life-changing experiences, and we aim to support these students by offering scholarships for this very purpose.
While some students were able to take part on-site, a good number of internships are still remote due to the COVID pandemic. Although this has made institutions rethink how internships might deployed remotely while maintaining a high standard of engagement and enrichment, we are pleased that our students were still able to take part in whatever ways they could. Click each accordion box to expand individual student stories.
I’m Jaynab Akhtar, a current senior in the History of Art Department, and this summer I had the incredible opportunity to intern with the Smithsonian Institution! I worked for the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Asian Art as a Research Publications and Scholarly Programs intern, and most of my work revolved around Ars Orientalis, a journal published jointly by the museum and the University of Michigan. Ars Orientalis highlights current research being done on Middle Eastern and Asian art, and this year the publishing team began to think about ways the journal’s structure and design could be modified. I was able to assist them by conducting a survey of art history journals published by other museums and institutions, and making note of any special features, social media practices, and audience engagement initiatives that could potentially be incorporated into future volumes of Ars Orientalis. My findings culminated in several presentations and a short report, and I’m excited to see how the journal grows and evolves in the years to come!
A second project I worked on was creating social media content to promote upcoming volumes of Ars Orientalis. I collaborated with the publishing team and social media specialist to help curate ideas for content that would be published on Twitter, and I also had the opportunity to work on the journal’s blog. I proposed interviewing a few of the journal contributors for the blog, and got the opportunity to speak with professors and art historians Drs. Di Luo, Holly Shaffer, and Anna Arabindan-Kesson. Drs. Luo and Shaffer guest-edited an expanded version of volume 50 and volume 51 of Ars Orientalis, respectively, while Dr. Kesson contributed an essay of her research on colonial Sri Lankan art. Although the interviews were held virtually, it was so exciting to be able to engage in conversation with scholars and learn about the work they were doing, as well as get a behind-the-scenes look of the essays published in the journal. This was also my first time interviewing other people, and it was such a fulfilling experience! I wrote three articles on the interviews that will be published in Ars Orientalis’ blog in the coming months.
The time I spent with the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries was memorable, engaging, and eye-opening. Although my internship was entirely virtual, I felt so connected to the museum and had such wonderful guidance from mentors and supervisors, namely Sana Mirza and Dr. Massumeh Farhad from the editing team, Sai Muddasani from social media initiatives, and Lizzie Stein from the Scholarly Programs and Publications Department. From the University of Michigan, I had the extraordinary support of Professor Christiane Gruber; her encouragement and belief in my abilities are always appreciated.
Below are some images of the material I worked with as an intern, and snippets from the interviews I conducted!
This summer I worked as a virtual intern for the Community Engagement Department at the Dallas Museum of Art. During the course of my nine week internship, I was able to plan and facilitate virtual art tours, art-making workshops, and video content to accompany art kits by local artists. One organization that we worked with was CreatiVets, a non-profit whose mission is to empower wounded veterans to heal through the arts and music. In assisting with their virtual print-making workshops, I saw firsthand how powerful making art can be. Creating virtual art tours for an array of audiences was a fun challenge. Paulina Dosal-Terminal, Mary Ann Bonet, and myself collaborated to bring the experience of a tour at the DMA online, highlighting new acquisitions and works recently on view. My favorite piece that we highlighted was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Sam F. This single painting held a beautiful narrative of race, music, disability, and what it means to be a Dallas native.
Thankfully, I was able to visit Dallas for a few days this summer. During my time there, I attended in person youth art making workshops and in person meetings at the museum. At the in person workshops, it was so special to connect with the community and share local Native artmaking. After finally seeing the museum collection in person, I felt much more comfortable talking about the pieces and sharing them virtually. I am so proud of what I have accomplished this summer and hope to continue my work in community engagement within the arts.
This past summer I participated in a Curatorial Internship at the Flint Institute of Arts and worked under Tracee Glab, the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. My project for the summer was researching and writing labels for fifteen works produced by the Taller de Gráfica Popular, or the People's Print Workshop, which is based out of Mexico City. I got to know prints that were specifically made during the heyday of the workshop, this being the 1930s and 40s. I found the work captivating; the complex social messages, layers of iconography, and technical skill in each print really made my internship experience an enjoyable and important one. I was also applying skills from my education in the History of Art department in a way I've never done before on a professional level.
Researching, writing, and collaborating with the Curatorial Department at the FIA was a priceless learning experience. I feel it also cemented my love for my discipline and my preparedness to move forward as an aspiring museum professional post-graduation. I had the chance to visit the Print Library in-person and see the prints up-close midway through my internship, and that moment of connection with objects and an institution as a whole is one that I will surely not forget.
In addition to this, I took on proposing new translations for some of the titles of pieces that were previously ignorantly translated by the original English-speaking publishers of the portfolio in the collection. With this project came a slew of museological questions that really impacted my understanding of collections and language as a way of understanding objects. My proposed titles and new labels are being transferred into the FIA database this Fall, and I feel as though this scholarship ultimately permitted me to do some really important work this summer."
Thank you and thanks to the History of Art Department again for the support, I'm so happy to be a part of such a stellar department!!
This summer, I worked as a collections management intern at the Kelsey Museum of Archeology under the direction of Sebastián Encina. Throughout my internship, my duties primarily centered around the maintenance and improvement of the Kelsey’s database. At the beginning of this internship, this primarily involved familiarizing myself with the database by cleaning and standardizing the metadata of preexisting entries. However, as the summer progressed, my focus turned towards the integration of the Qasr al-Hayr Archival Collection into the database, which was a project of many phases.
The first phase of this project centered around researching both the best practices surrounding archival databases and metadata and accessibility strategies, which informed my design for the archival objects’ accession page in the Kelsey Museum’s database. This design was workshopped and then implemented into the database in a collaborative effort with Sebastián. This new page in the database will be used in the eventual digitization of the Qasr al-Hayr Archival Collection to make these objects more accessible to both researchers and the general public. Furthermore, eventually, this process will be utilized on the rest of the Kelsey’s archival collection to make the entire collection digitally accessible.
While I will not see the completion of this project in my time at the Kelsey, I feel honored to have been a part of such an impactful project, and I look forward to seeing what the future of this project and the archives looks like.
This summer I interned for Allied Media Projects, a nonprofit organization based in Detroit that provides funding and exposure for artists and media makers across the country. While the internship itself was mostly virtual, it was part of the Residential College’s Semester in Detroit program, so the scholarship I received helped provide me with living costs during my time in Detroit.
The work I did for AMP centered around their virtual speaker series, in which some of the creative minds behind AMP’s sponsored projects were given the opportunity to speak about their work. I edited and formatted transcripts of each Spring 2021 speaker event, as well as wrote recaps and pulled quotes from each event for AMP’s website. In preparation for AMP’s Fall 2021 speaker series, I made profiles for each invited speaker including their name, pronouns, short biography, social media handles, and other relevant information. I also outlined the information necessary for the graphic design team to create pre- and post- show slides. I finished the summer by writing recaps for AMP’s very first virtual speaker series, which premiered in 2020.
During my time with Allied Media, I learned how to think critically about the role that art and media play in pushing communities toward liberation. Allied Media thinks of their role in the Detroit community as “redistributors of wealth” rather than as “money managers”, and they tend to take on small projects from artists that might otherwise be overlooked by profit-driven organizations. A lot of effort is spent listening to the community and adapting to its changing needs.
One moment from this summer that sticks out to me is during the “Undocumented and Unafraid” speaker event, Patrice Lawrence from the Undocublack Network talked about how in a world that has achieved liberation, art and storytelling will still exist, it will just do so to remind us about past struggles and to ensure that these destructive cycles are not repeated. I have carried this thought with me as a way of approaching art that exists now, during a time when liberation has yet to be achieved. I hope to continue this type of meaningful community work after graduation.
This summer, I had the opportunity to attend a virtual internship with the Conservation Department at the Penn Museum under the supervision of Lynn Grant. The experience was fundamental for me because it gave me hands-on experience in a field that I only understood conceptually.
My internship was split into two parts: a project digitizing film and learning about actual conservation techniques and skills.
The digitization project involved digitizing archival 35mm color film from previous conservation projects that took place anywhere from the early 1970s to about 2001. For this project, I digitized about 900 images and recorded any data that was included on the slide mount. This data is important to the museum because it can be used for research and to learn more about the past treatment of objects. Before the digitization, these images were only available physically but now they will be uploaded into a database and can be readily accessible.
The second part of the internship was learning about conservation and involved weekly lectures which I attended on zoom. These lectures were presented by members of the Conservation Department and discussed various topics in the field of conservation such as monumental stone conservation or techniques for analysis. The opportunity to ask questions directly to conservators and to learn about their experiences in the field was an incredible learning experience. I was able to get to know the members of the department during these meetings and I received valuable career advice.
During my internship I also worked on my own conservation project where I was able to apply the conservation skills that I learned during the lectures. I received from my supervisor a broken ceramic vessel and was tasked with putting it back together, following the steps that would be required in a real conservation lab. This was a long process involving written and photo documentation, figuring out how the pieces fit back together, allowing adhesive to dry, adjusting as necessary, and cleaning away extra adhesive. This was my favorite project because it was so hands-on and allowed me to practice skills that I will use in the future.
I am very grateful for the funding that made this internship possible. This experience has made me confident in my decision to pursue a career in Conservation and I feel prepared to navigate my next steps after graduation!
This summer, I worked with the A8 Design Center as an exhibition intern. I’m grateful that I got much more opportunities and challenges than expected. Over the past 3 months, I’m involved in many aspects of the institution, including book editing, exhibition design and visual design. I’ve got the opportunities to individually design two exhibitions, in close collaboration with the curator and the artists. One is a pop-up exhibition called “Pixeled boundaries” which explore the tension between sensation and space. This is the first project that I design was build down to the ground. Many difficulties were unexpected to me like the structure, and the interaction with people as a public installation. Both ones of my exhibition design are experimental and allow me to play out different spatial form in creating a diverse exhibition experience in different site.
I also got to do the visual design for a philanthropy event that focus on the animal welfare. This was an amazing practice when we can see how the design and art would make an impact for the life not only for humans but animals as well. This project was initially a dog shelter renovation challenge but extend into a series of events that embedded exhibitions, competitions, and also involved people from all kinds of industries to join. This idea of “we care, we change” could broadcast to the society through the design center is powerful to me.
Also, I’m involved in another event that was a design challenge in a city’s park lawn. The new mode of working is inspiring to me as they put the mentors from art, architecture, humanities background as well as the participant designers and artists on a round table to conduct a workshop. Together they brainstorm and produced design that intervene in the lawn and redefine people’s life after series of interesting conversation as everyone could offer perspectives from different disciplines.
During my internship, I was able to create discovery guides for the Exploring Michigan gallery at the University of Michigan Natural History Museum. The guides are worksheets to help guide students and families through the gallery. I hope that they will spark conversation and have them excited to explore. The other part of my internship was continuing my work as a docent at the museum. As we slowly reopened to the public, seeing the museum filled with people once again was exciting!
This summer I interned in the Curatorial Department at the Flint Institute of Arts under the supervision of the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Craft and Decorative Arts, Sarah Kohn. Throughout my internship, I virtually researched around 200 objects in the contemporary ceramics collection. The objects I researched ranged from pots that keep the indigenous traditions alive to a ceramic slice of cake that intended to be a social commentary on the elite class. With my research, I also wrote labels on 25 of my favorite ceramic pieces, allowing me to apply my work into an educational format. Having spent the summer researching contemporary ceramics, I have never been so intrigued by three-dimensional art works. My time at the FIA has expanded my interests to different mediums that I might not have given as much thought. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to work in such a welcoming environment and contribute to their contemporary ceramics collection.
For the past 3 months of June, July, and August I had the opportunity to intern at the Holburne Museum in Bath, England. A cultural center for many reasons, Bath has a rich history dating back to Roman times and Georgian Bath. Built on the ruins of a Roman city, Bath now features Georgian architecture that is built in the signature Bath limestone. The city itself was an enchanting place to spend a summer and its position being so close to London, Windsor, and Oxford allowed me to explore many cultural sites throughout my time there.
I spent my weeks in Bath, working at the museum and exploring the surrounding area with friends, and on weekends I often took trips to different museums and cultural sites. At the museum, my main focus was making their collection and exhibits more accessible to the public. This is a passion of mine and is something that I hope to bring forward into my future career in museums. I worked extensively with their database, uploading photos of hundreds of items from the collection along with descriptions and historical information on them so that they could be made accessible through the museum website. I also catalogued each gallery of the museum in order to create updated exhibition booklets for visitors to take with them throughout their visit, reformatting them and simultaneously updating the online filing to better reflect the current contents of the different galleries. I was also given the opportunity to help with editorial proofing of the upcoming exhibition book on Rossetti, which I found to be incredibly rewarding as it allowed me to better understand the process in which an institution creates publications.
I shadowed the curator and assistant curator in some of their duties such as packaging paintings for transport and observing when an expert came to appraise an old frame in order to determine steps for conservation. I accompanied them on a walkthrough of the new exhibition layout of Number 1 Royal Crescent and got to participate in a conversation with them and one of the museum’s curators in which they talked about fine-tuning exhibits and how to incorporate technology into a visitor’s experience through recorded audio and QR code links to further information.
During my time with the museum I got to spend a lot of one on one time with the curator during our morning tea break and was able to get a lot of insight into what a curator is working on on a daily basis, both in terms of research and collaboration with other institutions. Our daily talks were so inspiring and helped me to really understand what a future as a curator will hold for me. As a whole, my time at the museum was so enriching in terms of the collections that I was engaging with, the work I was doing, and the people I was working alongside. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to have this experience and look forward to a long future working in museums.
This summer I interned for six weeks at Baoding University, a public university at my hometown. I worked for the Department of Archeology and Museum. The department has a small collection on Chinese ceramics from Han dynasty to Qing dynasty. I designed a student docent program for the collection.
The first part of the program was to recruit students from the department. I wrote a recruitment guideline and distributed it to the students. After a brief audition, the collection’s director, an Archeology Professor Bangcheng Tang, and I added six students to the team. On our first meeting, we visited the collection to familiarize the layout of the room, and Professor Tang answered to questions regarding the collection asked by the students.
In the second stage,I broke the writing material compiled by the program director into six paragraphs in a chronological order for the students. Our perspective student docents were given one week to transform the paragraphs into a script. I encouraged them to add something like what they like about a particular object and engaging short stories into the script in order to better attract the visitor’s attention. Meanwhile, we also had an online chat group to discuss any questions raised in the process. In the last day of my intern, the six student docents gave a thorough 20-minute tour to me. Because of the limited time of my intern, I am not able to see the student docents to deliver a complete tour independently.
I enjoyed working with the students who expressed a genuine interest in the collection. I benefited from this experience as it offered me a chance to get a sense of working in an environment which requires a lot of paperwork to get a proposal approved. I am proud about my work because there will be a docent team to introduce the wonderful collection to campus visitors. My work will have a lasting impact as out students docent will recruit new members on a school year basis and they will continue revising the script, so the program will always be updated.
This summer I worked on the Asia Society Museum’s upcoming exhibition “Comparative Hell in Asia” as a research fellow. I served in this role 2 days a week, for eight weeks, starting in May 2021. The fellowship was remote as the offices of the Asia Society in New York had not fully opened to in-person work yet.
During this time, I worked closely with Clare McGowan, Senior Registrar and Collections Manager, and Maia Murphy who no longer works at the Asia Society but was integral in putting together the exhibition catalogue. My main task during the fellowship was to go through the draft of the catalogue, familiarize myself with the concept of the exhibition and the objects and then draft labels for the exhibition. Though I was basing the label texts on the object entries in the catalogue, editing and encapsulating information into a few relevant lines of text was a crucial learning experience.
The fellowship at the Asia Society Museum added to my existing experience of working in museums and gave me rare insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of a multi-national cultural institution. My own interest in depictions of the demonic in South Asian art were supplemented by working on this fascinating exhibition that compares the imaginings of hell from across Asia. As always is the case with research that looks comparatively at different cultures, there were some unexpected parallels and startling divergences. Furthermore, by participating in weekly staff meetings, I was able to keep abreast of all the other projects and events that were in motion. Overall, the fellowship was enriching, and I valued being part of the Asia Society team, though only for a few weeks.
This summer I worked as a curatorial fellow for the Asia
Society Museum, New York, under the supervision of the director Michelle Yun
Mapplethorpe. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fellowship was conducted
entirely online, but this did not diminish its value and indeed provided
exciting opportunities to think about digital media and leveraging the museum’s
website. I assisted with preparation for the exhibition, “Rebel, Jester,
Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians” which drew from the Mohammed Afkhami
Collection and opened this fall. In addition to providing editorial coverage
for the exhibition’s on-site presence, I also helped to flesh out the museum’s
website by writing artist biographies and an audio guide for the exhibition
that is also available online. The fellowship granted me the opportunity to
deepen my familiarity with the field of contemporary Iranian art, as well as my
exhibition planning knowledge, particularly through developing materials for
This past summer, I worked as a curatorial fellow at the Asia Society Art Museum in New York City. While I worked remotely due to ongoing covid concerns, I still learned about how museums operate on a day-to-day basis as well as prepare for larger events and exhibitions.
One of my major projects was verifying the organization of content as it moved from an older website to the main Asia Society website. This content was short clips, reports, and longer lecture videos from previous Museum Summits hosted by the Asia Society. The content was very important to preserve, since it represents many hours of discussion and discourse on pressing issues facing art museums in the twenty-first century, particularly problems in displaying Asian art, from ethics to politics and beyond. I made sure that the content was transferred in an organized fashion and that the new site map was comprehensive and understandable.
Another large project I worked on was the upcoming exhibition this fall, “Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: Contemporary Persians— The Mohammed Afkhami Collection,” in many capacities. I researched and prepared short dossiers on each of the artists being displayed, and the critical responses that they have received. I researched outlets to approach for publicizing the exhibition, from social media research to Persian restaurants, and compiled this data in a spreadsheet. I became very familiar with the collection and its exhibition history in preparation for the Asia Society exhibit.
I also performed clerical duties, such as collecting and collating attendance data from previous years, researching any topics that I was given, including Asian art films and NFTs, andworking with technology for online events such as the Asia Society at the Movies program. Being given such a wide variety of tasks allowed me to experience many of the facets of museum management, and learn what skills I need to work on so that I can be successful in a future museum career. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work at the Asia Society Art Museum. I look forward to seeing the collection in person someday soon, and I want to thank the University of Michigan History of Art Department for making my summer program possible.
Over the course of eight weeks in the summer, I assisted with two distinct projects at the Asia Society Museum in New York as part of the summer fellowship program. The fellowship began on May 03, 2021 and ended on June 21, 2021. The two projects, focusing on museum education and provenance research respectively, were closely aligned to my interests and were supervised by the museum’s Senior Registrar, Clare McGowan. Apart from the two projects, I also received the opportunity to participate in weekly staff meetings over eight weeks that introduced me to the larger team and other curatorial projects currently underway at the museum.
In the first project, I closely worked with the Publications Manager and Editor at the Asia Society Museum to redraft and compose interpretive materials and didactics for the museum’s forthcoming gallery installation on the third floor in the Aron Gallery. The exhibition is titled Sculpture from Thailand and it will showcases eleven objects from the permanent collection that were either made in Thailand or have strong linkages to Thailand via trade, politics or aesthetics. Hence, the exhibition will also display objects from Indonesia and Cambodia, that were home to the Srivijayan kingdom and Mon cultures respectively. While composing the interpretive materials – label and wall texts – I performed a close reading of available research in the museum’s catalog, and also researched new methods to bring the individual objects in dialogue with each other. As an example, I crafted descriptions for two stucco heads from Mon culture that brought into discussion the different process of making them The visitor will be able to learn not just about the stucco heads or about Mon culture, but also understand diverse techniques of terracotta production in ancient Southeast Asia. Through this project, I was primarily able to learn about structuring narratives within an exhibition for a broad audience in museums using limited didactic resources.
In the second project, I organized archival material about the permanent collection that was recently acquired by the Asia Society Museum from the Rockefeller Archive Center in New York. The museum’s permanent collection is a bequest by John D. Rockefeller 3rd in 1979, and it was supplemented with a set of card catalogs that readily mention the objects’ subject matter, dimensions, date of creation, place of creation or purchase and culture among other details. My research primarily aimed to identify objects in the collection mentioned in the archival material by correlating correspondence, sale receipts, past exhibition and loan records with details in the card catalogs. Once I established a preliminary identification in the archival record, I verified and organized the information in online object files of the museum’s database. By organizing archival material into the museum database for use in future exhibitions and education programs, the summer internship project aligned with Asia Society Museum’s broader mission to facilitate collaboration between Asia and the United States of America through its collection.
Ultimately, the eight-week long summer internship program at the Asia Society Museum was an enriching experience that not only enabled me to apply my current skill set in museum education and provenance research, but also engage with the museum’s permanent collection in new ways.