The process of applying for internships felt daunting, but once submitted and accepted, I was more than thrilled. This past summer, I was chosen to be the Collections Information and Research Intern at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (NPG).
My job consisted of working on the Catalog of American Portraits (CAP), which entailed archiving private and public collections of American portraits in the United States and abroad. This work was a bit tedious, but it enabled me to learn the ins and outs of the Smithsonian databases, which aided me in another aspect of the internship: researching inquiries from independent scholars and graduate students about specific portraits. Each inquiry was different; some required reference to physical or electronic archives, while others necessitated extensive research at the Smithsonian’s libraries. This practice greatly helped me hone my skills as a researcher.
Aside from this practice in research, the Smithsonian Institution provided educational programming for interns. I had the opportunity to walk through exhibitions before they opened and ask the curators questions. In addition to these perks, interns also had very liberal access to the museums in the mornings for guided tours and for tasks outside the office. Every intern at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum was required to complete a Gallery check at least once. The task was to walk through a designated area in the museum and make sure everything looked up to par. The best part of this experience was having the opportunity to walk through the galleries in an environment where I alone could experience the works, without the hustle and bustle of the museums when they are open. I liked this experience so much that I ended up doing it twice.
My internship at NPG allowed me to experience many different facets of working in a museum. By offering such a wide array of programs for interns the NPG helped me to experience aspects of a museum career that I would not have otherwise known—not to mention the daily pleasure of visiting the museum.