MuseumWorks 2021: A Virtual Introduction to Museum Themes, Issues, and Careers

MuseumWorks 2021: A Virtual Introduction to Museum Themes, Issues, and Careers

MuseumWorks 2021

From 21 June–30 July 2021, fourteen Middlebury College undergraduates participated in MuseumWorks, the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s paid summer internship and professional development program. The goal of MuseumWorks is to help students learn about available career paths within art museums specifically and the art world more broadly. Over the course of the summer, interns are also asked to think about the field holistically, developing an appreciation of how people in a variety of roles collaborate to achieve shared goals. While most of the topics are specific to art museums, students learn many skills and frameworks that they can apply to a variety of other career paths.

Important topics were intentionally woven throughout many of our discussions: the importance of acknowledging museums’ history as we work to improve them now and moving forward, museums’ roles in their communities, museum ethics, and diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. Our hope is that as interns decide what steps to take next, they will have a clear sense of the rewards and challenges of the art world. For those who choose to pursue careers in the arts, we hope that they will use this knowledge to help make the art world more ethical and inclusive from within. For those who pursue other careers, we trust that this experience will encourage them to ask similar questions about their chosen field—and enrich their experience of enjoying art in their personal lives.

In this second iteration of a “Virtual MuseumWorks,” run entirely online, students participated in 6 hours of synchronous professional development each week, and completed an additional 10 weekly hours of asynchronous work on sustained projects. As you can read below, this year’s cohort hailed from 7 countries—and spanned 17 time zones!

For two synchronous hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, interns participated in a professional development curriculum consisting of the following components:
• Group readings and discussions on the following topics: museum history, museum ethics, equitable digital access to the arts, and decolonizing museums
• Career conversations and Q&A with a variety of professionals including: accessibility specialist, archivist, arts journalist, auction house representative, conservator, curator, diversity officer, educator, exhibition designer, fundraiser, gallerist, grant writer, and registrar
• Career counseling sessions on the following topics: networking, interviewing, and transferrable skills
• Workshops allowing interns to “try on” skills in the following areas: exhibition design, arts accessibility, museum administration, and Diversity, Equity, Access, & Inclusion work
• Researching and conducting interviews with professionals working in the field and presenting their findings to peers

In additional, interns worked at their own pace for two hours each weekday on the projects that advanced the Middlebury College Museum of Art’s mission to “connect people to a diverse range of cultural objects and experiences that engage the spirit, challenge the mind, and inspire expansive discussion.” Students were divided into three groups: Digital Strategies, Education, and Visitor Experience. Each group of five interns conversed internally at least once per weekday and met with their project supervisor once per week.

Below you will find descriptions of the work that each project cohort undertook. In addition, we asked each participant to introduce themselves via a short paragraph and to say a bit about what they were most interested to explore through the MuseumWorks program.

It was a pleasure to work with this remarkable group. We thank them for their contributions and wish them luck as they choose the career paths they will follow. If even one of them stays in the arts, we know that the field will be better for it!

Mikki Lane, Douglas Perkins, and Jason Vrooman
MuseumWorks Supervisors

Interns and program administrators would like to acknowledge Cookie S. Tager MA ’66 for her generous support of MuseumWorks.


Digital Strategies

Five interns came together this summer to learn effective strategies for digital audience engagement and to work toward evolving the museum’s engagement efforts in the digital space. Having explored foundational issues such as mission, branding, accessibility, user experience, and analytics they then selected two projects to work on. Inspired by the recent news that the college is considering building a new museum near the center of campus, several of the students chose to focus on outlining the sorts of content, experiences, and design they would want to see in their ideal museum web site. With those suggestions as a jumping off point they proceeded to build a survey geared toward capturing similar preferential data from a wide array of their peers. They hope to present their aggregated results to the museum staff this fall. Others, motivated by this fall’s feature exhibitions and permanent collection istallations, chose to collaborate on planning, scheduling, and creating content designed to contextualize the works on view via the museum’s various digital properties and social media channels. Examples of their work will form the basis of the museum’s digital engagement efforts throughout the fall and beyond.

Education

This summer, five Education interns worked to improve and expand the museum’s in-gallery interpretive materials. The bulk of their work consisted of editing labels for objects on view in the museum’s recently reinstalled permanent collection galleries. As a major part of their work, interns researched and wrote interpretive labels for objects in the Fall 2021 exhibition Art & Protest: Artists As Agents of Social Change. The other major focus was reviewing interpretive labels for objects on view in the museum’s recently reinstalled permanent collection galleries. In line with the primary goal of making art from across many cultures more physically and intellectually accessible, interns worked to make interpretive labels more inclusive. After a careful review of a number of sources on inclusive language, interns reviewed existing labels and proposed alternatives to interpretations that seemed unclear, or expressed hidden bias in such areas as disability, racial stereotypes, socioeconomic status, gender roles, gender identity, gender expression, and more. In some instances, they rewrote labels from scratch. Interns also considered length, clarity, and technical jargon—all the elements that can impact a museum visitor’s desire and ability to absorb the large amount of new information offered in an art museum displaying art created across thousands of years and around the world.

Visitor Experience

This summer’s Visitor Experience cohort of the MuseumWorks program consisted of five students. Throughout the six-week program, we explored and put into practice a number of items that were learned with regard to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. The cohort researched, planned, created, and presented the museum’s first Social Stories document. According to Carol Gray, the creator of Social Stories, “Social stories use words or images to explain specific occurrences, behaviors, social interactions, concepts, or skills. They are designed to benefit those with developmental delays, social issues, autism, or other difficulties with comprehension.” We hope to have the document finalized and available by the fall.

Student Feedback

At the end of the six-week program we asked students to reflect on their experiences. Here is a sampling of what they had to say:

“The MuseumWorks Internship has helped me cultivate a deeper appreciation of art and the art world at large. I have learned about so many unexpected roles and opportunities that exist and I feel so inspired to incorporate the various details and skills I’ve learned in all my future work. My favourite aspect of this program was the fact that interns were given the opportunity to do hands on work at the museum to make various aspects (websites, labels, resources) more inclusive, honest and informative.”

“Coming from a small, rural town, I feel very grateful to the MuseumWorks program for opening my eyes to the scope of career opportunities in the art world. Now I can respond in confidence when a skeptic asks ‘What in the world are you going to do with an art history degree?’”

“I really appreciated having the opportunity to hear about such a diverse array of jobs in the art/museum field. Knowing that there are so many niche positions that fit people’s interests is both helpful and affirming as I think about what I want to do in my future.”

“I came into the program wanting to decide my future career in the arts after graduating. After 6 weeks with MuseumWorks, I came out of it knowing exactly what I want to do.”


The Interns

Grace Kellogg ’22 (she/her)

I am a rising senior from Seattle majoring in Conservation Biology with minors in Political Science and Anthropology. I’m fascinated by how the popular culture of a given era influences fashion and vice versa, and the social cueing we as a species do via fashion! I’m excited to learn more about intersectionality in museum spaces, as well how museums can be tools for social justice and sustainability.

 


Beatrice Donovan ’23.5 (she/her)

I am a rising junior from New York City, and I am currently pursuing a history major. Through the course of my time at MuseumWorks, I am excited to learn more about the intentionality of the curation process and how the ‘museum experience’ is created. I really enjoy multi-sensory and interactive art installations that involve the viewer more intimately in the art and the experience. In my free time, I love going on hikes, and I am on the Middlebury Women’s Soccer team.

 


Andriiana Ilkiv ’24 (she/her)

Hi! I’m Andriiana, a rising sophomore from Ukraine. I am most definitely going to major in Film and Media Studies, and I also discovered a passion for theatre stage management here at Middlebury. Except for occasional meme making, I don’t really produce any art—not too great for someone who absolutely enjoys literary analysis and film criticism. After graduating high school in Costa Rica, I realized I do not ever wish to be physically and mentally stuck in one place, and so I’m excited to find out about the specific ways in which a career in the field of visual arts can help me grow through action, travel, and interaction with new people.

 


Jacqueline Tran ’24 (she/her)

I am a rising sophomore from Seattle, Washington. I plan to major in Art History and potentially minor in History/Religion. I look forward to learning about the different components of a museum, as well as the public’s interaction with museums. After graduating from Middlebury, I hope to either travel across various countries in Asia and Europe or attend grad school. My goal in life is to end up living in a foreign country with an ideal job related to the arts. I like to fold origami, throw pottery, read, and paint in my free time.

 


Katie Concannon ’22 (she/her)

I am a senior majoring in Environmental Studies. This summer I am interested in learning about how exhibitions are aesthetically designed to guide a visitor’s experience. At school I work with Middlebury’s antique costume collection, and I am passionate about all forms of vintage, historical, and historical recreation clothing.

 


Adayliah Ley ’24 (she/her)

Over the course of this summer, I am eager to discover the inner-workings of art historical professionals and of museums through discussions of culture, art, and people. I am currently a rising sophomore and I plan on majoring in Architectural Studies with minors in Art History and French, though my interests continue to vary though I hope to pursue arts in some capacity after my time at Middlebury. Outside of my internship, I love exploring the outdoors on foot and bike, throwing pottery, and cooking.

 


Paige Osgood ’23 (she/her)

I am a rising junior from Detroit, Michigan, and am an anthropology and Spanish double major. I am interested in pursuing archeology or museum curation after Middlebury and am excited to learn more about museum work, specifically how to increase diversity and decolonize collections. I love prehistoric art like that found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Latin American civilizations. In my free time, I read, play tennis, and go on long walks while listening to podcasts.

 


Shivapriya Nair ’24 (she/her)

As a ‘third culture kid’ born in India and raised in Lesotho, I have often been affected by how art types such as film or fashion convey and depict cultural information. This summer, I am intrigued to learn more about how art can create, share, and change culture. I am a rising sophomore and currently plan to major in International and Global Studies. After Middlebury, I hope to be involved within educational reform that makes the learning process more creative and relevant to this constantly evolving world.

 


Hunter P. ’22 (he/him)

I am a rising senior from Chicago, IL. I major in Art History and minor in Chinese and also have an academic focus in Economics. This summer, I am excited to work with the Middlebury museum and am also working at Artnet in their price database. I hope to work in the art world post graduation, ideally in the art markets. I have a lot of research interests, both personal and professional, but currently have a particular fascination with the 1970’s and am currently writing an article for Artnet on the design of the 70’s.

 


Florence Wu ’22 (she/her)

I am a rising senior majoring in International Politics & Economics (IP&E) and Studio Art, and I am from Auckland, NZ. After graduation, I plan to explore photojournalism and curatorial study as my career options, and I hope this summer can give me insights on my predominant path of focus. As a creative, I am very much guided by the works of Jim Goldberg, Paul Strand, and Shanghainese artist Liang Shaoji. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, snowboarding, and rock climbing.

 


Tanya Chen ’24 (she/her)

Hi! I’m a rising sophomore from Toronto, Canada and I am an Architectural Studies major and a possible German minor. Recently, I’ve been considering pursuing a career in urban planning after Middlebury. I’m interested in learning more about how museums might shape or reflect public opinion, values and culture in their communities. Two of my favourite artists right now are James Jean and the Japanese band Lamp.

 


Celeste Levy ’22 (they/them)

Hello! I am a rising senior from the Bay Area of California. My major is Philosophy but I also spend time studying poetry, rhetoric, and art. I have many dreams post-college, including working to make museums and art-making opportunities accessible to and impactful for everyone. Outside of work my favorite things to do are cook big meals, be in the sunshine, and look for local amphibians! I hope that this summer I can explore how curation affects the narratives furthered by the art world, and how our work can uplift marginalized voices.

 


Alexis Welch ’22.5 (she/her)

I am a rising senior from the small town of Revelstoke, British Columbia. At Middlebury, I study art history and am planning to write my senior thesis in the upcoming semester on contemporary Indigenous artists whose traditional territory surrounds my hometown. After graduation, I hope to work with more Aboriginal artists to have their works celebrated within museums. Through the MuseumWorks internship, I am excited to learn about the art market and about the different positions within a larger museum. In my free time, I love to take photographs, particularly self-portraits.

 


Yaqi Huang ’22.5 (she/her)

I am a rising senior Feb. from Beijing, China and I am double majoring in Computer Science and Comparative Literature (French and Russian). This summer, I am excited to learn more about the backstage designs, maintenance and developments of museums. After graduation, I hope to navigate a way to combine my interests in tech, investing, communication, and my strengthening self-consciousness as a wannabe global citizen. A few of my interests and passions are singing, digital photography, traveling and Muay Thai.

AuthorDouglas Perkins

Douglas Perkins '94 is Associate Director for Operations and Finance at the Middlebury College Museum of Art and steward of the museum's digital presence.

One reply to MuseumWorks 2021: A Virtual Introduction to Museum Themes, Issues, and Careers

  1. I enjoyed this article so much. to you Mikki and all your colleagues.

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