Internship Experiences

One of the requirements of all Museum Studies minors is to pursue a 3-credit internship at one of the many museum-related institutions in our area or beyond. This experience is one of the defining moments in a student’s career at UMW, and often leads to future job opportunities or graduate school.

Below are the words of minors who have decided to share their internship experiences with current and prospective students:

Lindsey Crawford:

It is hard to describe my excitement upon reading the email offering me a summer internship at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington DC. Ever since declaring my minor in museum studies, I had the goal of interning at the Smithsonian before graduating from college. I started small by first completing three internships at local museums so I had a fighting chance at receiving a Smithsonian internship, which are highly competitive, particularly during the summer. My strategy worked well and I was elated to find out that I was offered an internship at the newest Smithsonian museum, where I could not even get tickets to go as a visitor! This is how, during the summer before my senior year, I joined the Public Programs Department team at NMAAHC.


This kind of museum work was new to me. I got to help with the final touches on the program “The Newark Rebellion of 1967: A Historic Moment Considered,” a series of panel discussions that was a huge hit with the public, given the 300+ visitors in attendance. However, my biggest accomplishment would have to be that of creating a hands-on activity for visitors of an exhibition including a timeline of slavery. I worked with designers at the museum and it was amazing to see my ideas come to life through the design process! Above all, I had the chance to see how what I learned in all my museum studies classes comes together in a real museum, especially because public programs incorporate design, marketing, PR, education, and many other aspects. It is one thing to read or talk about these and it is another to really see them in action.

This internship gave me an opportunity to learn more not only about museum work but also African American history and culture. I feel more appreciative of both, but know I still have more to learn.

Cara Dudley:

I spent the summer before my last semester at the University of Mary Washington interning for the Education Department at the National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC). I would say this internship was the highlight of my summer and every day at work I did what I love. As a new intern, I was first introduced to all of the other departments and later I had the chance to collaborate with staff members from the entire museum. I also had the honor to meet the director and deputy director of the organization.semper-sketchpad-camp

My duties were diverse but very enjoyable. Primarily, I assisted the summer camps at the museum. Interacting with camp participants of different ages was very rewarding and getting thank-you cards from campers always made my day. I also conducted research for “discovery carts, “ which are small collections of objects to present to visitors along with scripts that interpret those objects for enhancement of knowledge and experience. Last but not least, I served as the designated photographer of the summer camps and the pictures I took will be featured in promotional materials and on social media.img_1951

In the presentation I gave to staff members at the end of the internship I expressed my gratitude for the learning opportunity I was given. My interest in museum education stems from a class on this topic I took in my junior year at UMW and this internship in the Education Department at NMMC definitely helped me make the decision to enter this field.




Jessica Schmitt:

The summer in between my junior and senior years at the University of Mary Washington, I had the opportunity to intern with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The Museum and Archives Center on campus houses approximately 500,000 items dating back to the 1850s. The items relate to the American conservation movement and the history of wildlife management in the United States. jessicaschmitt_internshippicture

During my internship, I mostly focused on accessioning and cataloging new items into the archives, inventorying historic objects, photographs, and papers, and digitizing the USFWS historic film collection. Although museum and archive staff were always there to answer any questions I may have had, they trusted me to do the work on my own, which made me feel confident my abilities. Being able to touch, handle, and look at historic objects is such a spiritual experience and working with so many artifacts made this internship amazing. Not only did I get to learn more about the daily routine of a museum/archive and the U.S. conservation movement and wildlife management history, but I was also able to build professional relationships with all the staff, especially with the Chief Curator and Chief Historian.

To conclude, this internship solidified dreams to work in a museum/archive in the future. I am so glad I decided to study Historic Preservation and Museum Studies here at UMW because there really isn’t anything else like working with objects that are 150 years older than you!

Rachel Zernick:

rachel-zernick My experience at the Manassas Museums System during the summer before my junior year was a fantastic opportunity for me to serve the community that I am a part of as a local. Working at a museum so close to my hometown helped me learn things I didn’t know about the place where I have lived for most of my life. My internship was in the education field, which allowed me to share my enthusiasm for history with every visitor I encountered. The small size of the museum was perfect for beginning my professional career and it benefited me greatly. The nature of many of the tasks I was assigned was new to me but, overall, the work strengthened my communication, social, and professional skills.

19642736_10211762731216351_6591381504065186129_n-2I spent most of my time assisting with education programs, from the weekly booth we had at the Manassas Farmers Market with fun activities for children, to a large field-trip group of over 2,000 students from Tennessee that challenged us to figure out the logistics of fitting that many visitors on the Manassas Battlefields. Throughout the summer I was tasked with giving numerous tours and even got the chance to create a children’s program for a major local event, the Civil War Weekend. The latter allowed me to expand upon the knowledge I had obtained in my Museum Education course I took during the previous spring semester. This internship helped me better understand the museum field and grow as a young professional.

Courtney Kuzemchak:

Courtney standing next to the original Special Full Dress Coat worn by the Marine Band beginning in 1904

Courtney standing next to the original Special Full Dress Coat worn by the Marine Band starting in 1904

I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior year completing what can only be classified as “My Dream Internship.” In conjunction with the National Museum of the Marine Corps (NMMC) and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, my internship took place at Marine Barracks in Washington D.C.

The overall goal for my internship was to help the United States Marine Band research and catalog hundreds of items in their holdings that would become a part of the NMMC’s collection. Throughout the summer, I cataloged over two hundred objects, ranging from musical instruments and uniforms, to miscellaneous items like cigars and toasting glasses. Cataloging for the NMMC included creating an acquisition report complete with information about the object, its donor, and photos of the object now and when it was used. Because the Marine Band had such a wide array of objects, the research portion of the cataloging process was the most difficult, yet most rewarding, part of my internship. In addition to these reports, I also assisted with tours of the Marine Band Library and presented my acquisition reports before the NMMC Collections Committee at their monthly meetings. The skills I learned in this process will be beneficial not only in my future professional career, but also during the rest of my academic training at UMW.

As a long-time musician, the decision to not major in music at UMW was not easy to make. I knew in my heart that a career in the museum field is what I have always wanted, so I chose to follow that instinct. This internship allowed me to combine my two passions for music and museums and hone the skills I have already learned as a historic preservation major. I will be forever grateful for the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, and the United States Marine Band for making a few of my dreams come true.

Erin Clark:

During the second semester of my junior year I had the opportunity to intern in the curatorial department at James Madison’s Montpelier in Montpelier Station, Virginia. My main task was to deaccession over 500 books that were going to be placed and used in the museum’s research library. This work continued the deaccession project that had been underway for several years at the museum.

Erin Clark, Spring 2014 Intern at James Madison's Montpelier

Erin Clark, Spring 2014 Intern at James Madison’s Montpelier

I conducted the work mostly independently but under the close supervision of the curator, director, and several other staff members. In the process, I have gained familiarity with PastPerfect and ResourceMate (both are widely used computer cataloging systems) as well as museum policies on deaccessioning of objects. Working “behind the scenes” in a museum gave me the chance to apply and expand on the knowledge I learned in the classroom. My exposure to various museum activities and my interactions with a wide range of museum professionals helped me gain a full perspective of the inner workings of a museum. I thoroughly enjoyed my internship at James Madison’s Montpelier and recommend this museum to other potential interns.

Christina Sabol:

I first volunteered at The Peter Wentz Farmstead, a small house museum with an active 108-acre farm in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, when I was a rising senior in high school.

Christina Sabol

Christina Sabol

That first volunteering project included inventorying the museum’s library, textile, and education collections as well as the cataloging of these collections, using the Past Perfect system. I returned to the museum during the summer of 2011, when I helped with on-site archaeological excavations taking place due to some work on the museum facilities. Because the artifacts from that dig and the subsequent one were never fully processed, I was pleased to accept a new internship at the museum during the summer of 2013.

This time, my main responsibilities were to process, clean, identify, photograph and catalog the archaeological artifacts from the 2011 test pits and the 2012 trench excavations. This work allowed me to learn a range of new skills, from separating, numbering, sorting and storing artifacts to recording them into the Past Perfect system, along with their photographs.

Archeological material excavated at The Peter Wentz Farmstead Further, by using skills learned in GIS and Historic Preservation courses at the University of Mary Washington,  I made a virtual 3-D model of excavations at The Peter Wentz Farmstead.  My final excavation report was submitted to the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office and will be available for other archaeologists to read. The staff at The Peter Wentz Farmstead plans on using my findings to identify pottery similar to the unearthed one for display in the historic house.

Archeological material excavated at The Peter Wentz Farmstead

Archeological material excavated at The Peter Wentz Farmstead

My summer internship was a priceless learning opportunity. I am forever thankful to Richard Poole, the archaeologist who assisted me and took me under his wing, and the rest of The Peter Wentz Farmstead staff for letting me return for yet another summer.






Katherine Fields:

As a student in the Historic Preservation Department at the University of Mary Washington, I recently had the privilege of being awarded the Bowley scholarship and, along with that, the opportunity to work at the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

As a museum intern, I had responsibilities pertaining to the smooth and successful operation of the museum. These included assisting the curator with maintaining and installing exhibits, conducting research for new exhibitions as well as updating the museum’s collections management system. I also worked on scanning archival materials in the museum’s extensive collections. Previously, these materials could be accessed only if one would visit the museum’s archives but now, in their digital format, they are easily accessible online. My favorite project this summer was the research pertaining to a new document going on display soon, a letter from General George Weedon to James Monroe. In addition to preparing the labels and documentation for this artifact, I also assisted with the planning of a summer camp for Revolutionary War re-enactors.

All in all, the internship at The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library gave me the chance to learn invaluable information about museums that will help me in the future.

Michelle King: 

Minors in Museum Studies at the University of Mary Washington have the great chance to collaborate with school alumni working in museums all over the country. My contact and mentor this summer was Ms. Rebecca Erbelding at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  After connecting with her for a school assignment, I learned about, applied for, and received a summer internship in the Archives Branch of the U.S. Holocaust Museum.  This internship fit me perfectly as it combined the subject I am most interested in as a historian with a fantastic educational and professional opportunity.

My main responsibilities as a collections intern included handling artifacts, cataloging and organizing collections, scanning documents for future scholarly use, and attending meetings with donors. I applied my skills within two larger projects at the museum. The first was the making of a video clip on a letter donated to the museum by Charlotte Delbo, a French writer and member of the French resistance, who wrote this letter during her imprisonment at Auschwitz. The second project pertained to the processing of a large family collection of documents and artifacts, which I sorted, organized, scanned, cataloged, and created a finding aid for. I was assigned to do this work alone and accomplishing it gave me confidence in my abilities.

I could not ask for more out of a summer-long internship. In addition to learning more about the history of the Holocaust and World War II, I gained a better understanding of the museum professions and the museum world in general. My internship coordinators and the museum staff encouraged me to ask questions and learn as much as I could. This internship confirmed that by declaring my minor in Museum Studies, I have chosen the perfect career path for me.


Michelle King (R) and a fellow intern in front of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Michelle King (R) and Rebecca Erbelding (L) in front of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum