The RISD Museum’s Mellon summer internship program introduces students to museum work and offers in-depth experience working in a specific department of the RISD Museum. Interns contribute to departmental projects with Museum staff as supervisors. As a cohort, interns discuss museum practice, build professional skills for working in the arts, and learn about how museums live up to their missions. This is designed as an introductory experience for students without prior experience or access to similar opportunities.
Planning to apply? Drop by virtual office hours on Monday, January 15, 12-1 pm, Thursday, January 25, 6-7 pm, or Friday, January 26, 12:30-1:30 pm, to ask questions and get advice on your application.
- Program Details
Applicants should have a strong interest in museum work and the topics related to the specific internship projects, but no previous museum experience or academic background in art history is necessary. This program is open to currently enrolled college and university undergraduate and graduate students; students graduating in the 2023-24 academic year are also eligible. Students who are not U.S. citizens are welcome to apply for the internship if they have a visa that is valid for the entire internship program (through mid-August 2024).
The ten-week internships begin on June 10 and end on August 16, 2024. Interns are expected to work for 20 hours a week. Participation in group seminars and workshops focusing on museum studies and professional practice is included in these weekly hours. Interns will develop an independent project related to their interests alongside these seminar sessions and at the end of the program, each intern will publicly reflect on their experience and share their work. Browse former interns’ perspectives on the collection here. Interns will receive a $4,000 honorarium. A limited amount of funding is available for travel assistance and may be awarded to accepted students who would not otherwise be able to take advantage of this opportunity.
The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, February 2, 2024, at 11:59 pm. Selected candidates will be interviewed in March and all applicants will be notified by the end of that month. Questions should be addressed to email@example.com.
Participants may arrange for academic credit for the internship through their college or university. To do so, they will need to fulfill the number of hours required for credit at their home institutions and any additional requirements, such as paper assignments, to qualify for that credit. Museum staff will provide supervision for such assignments as well as letters of support verifying the student’s participation in the internship program.
The Mellon Summer Internship Program at the RISD Museum is made possible by an endowment from the Mellon Foundation.
- Positions for 2024
Creative Production Internship
The Creative Production Intern will work collaboratively to create digital content related to the Museum’s collection. The intern will work with the Digital Initiatives team on audio production and other aspects of digital interpretation related to an upcoming exhibition and multi-faceted project that highlights historic works of sealskin alongside contemporary artistic practices of living communities from the circumpolar regions. As collaborations between curators and educators, these projects offer lively content and accessible learning opportunities for a varied public. This intern will work closely with the Digital Storytelling intern. Skills required include a working knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite, including Audition. Applicants for this position should upload work samples in the allotted section of the application form.
Digital Storytelling Internship
The Digital Storytelling Intern will collaborate with the curatorial and digital initiatives teams on narrative writing related to an upcoming exhibition and multi-faceted project that highlights historic works of sealskin alongside contemporary artistic practices of living communities from the circumpolar regions. Working closely with the exhibition curator and the audio production intern, this intern will co-author documentary-style narratives and other interpretive content. Tasks will include writing draft scripts; editing interviews, identifying the strongest components; researching archival audio; and identifying appropriate music. The successful candidate will be a strong writer with a journalistic mindset and will possess cultural competency and interest in the project’s subject matter. Applicants for this position should upload work samples in the allotted section of the application form.
Each curatorial intern will assist a curator or curatorial team with tasks related to researching and interpreting works of art and design, which may in some cases be associated with upcoming exhibitions or prospective additions to the collection. The intern will also assist with ongoing collection management. This may include taking inventories of objects, confirming descriptions and measurements, and entering and updating data in the Museum’s internal database system. The intern will gain an understanding of managing a collection area in a museum and will be introduced to writing about objects for platforms such as in-gallery texts and scholarly publications. Strong candidates will be detail oriented and will possess good organizational and research skills.
Curatorial Internship: Contemporary Art
The Contemporary Art department oversees works in painting, sculpture, video, sound, and installation created after 1960. Tasks will include preparing research for the presentation of works from the collection, for future acquisitions to the collection, and for temporary exhibitions.
Curatorial Internship: Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
The Prints, Drawings, and Photographs department oversees works on paper, ranging from Medieval manuscripts to contemporary photography. The intern will assist with research for an upcoming exhibition on photomechanical printmaking practices in nineteenth-century Europe and the United States, in addition to storage reorganization, cataloging, and maintenance of curatorial research files.
Conservation and Collections Care Internship: Costume & Textiles
The Costume and Textiles collection contains more than 30,000 objects and includes textiles, clothing, and fashion items ranging from 1500 BCE to the present. The intern will assist staff with collections care and conservation tasks including closely examining objects and compiling condition reports that document damage, repacking and rehousing fragile items in storage, and researching objects as needed. An interest in behind-the-scenes museum work and the history of costume and textiles is preferred.
The Registration intern will learn about the care and management of the museum’s permanent collection. The intern will assist with the inventory and documentation of a collection of historic coins, as well as cross-department storage inventories, condition report documentation, and rehousing for parts of the decorative arts collection. The intern will become familiar with the roles museum registrars and collections staff play and will gain knowledge of basic museum collections management practices, information systems, collections care, and an introduction to art handling skills. A successful candidate will possess attention to detail and computer fluency.
- Frequently Asked Questions
What are the seminars?
Seminar sessions focus on topics in contemporary museum practice, with the goal of providing a big-picture introduction to the philosophical considerations and the day-to-day realities faced by museum professionals. Seminar sessions include conversations with staff, discussions of readings and other assigned media, and field trips to other types of arts organizations.
What is the independent project?
Interns have the opportunity to develop an independent project for the museum’s website during their time at the museum. Independent projects take a single object (or small group of objects) as their starting point. The format and content can be interpreted loosely and creatively and may include text, images, multimedia, or any combination of the above. Browse former interns’ perspectives on the collection here.
Who do interns work with? Do they learn from staff other than their supervisor?
Interns’ primary staff resources are their individual supervisor, who oversees their work in their department, and the Director of Academic Programs, who runs weekly seminars and oversees independent projects. Department work often involves working alongside other staff members outside the department. Seminar sessions focus broadly on museum theory and practice, introducing interns to museum staff in a wide range of positions.
What are your criteria? What do you look for in an application?
We look for students who have a distinct perspective to lend to the work, who have a clearly articulated interest in exploring museum work, and whose career growth would be significantly impacted by this opportunity. Students may have some background relevant to the project selected, but the internship is geared towards those without extensive prior experience in museums and those who may not have had access to similar career opportunities. Successful applicants typically dedicate effort to the two statements, demonstrating a clear interest in the complexity of museums, in the RISD Museum, and in the position as it has been described.
When listing the courses I’ve taken in my current course of study, how many should I include? Do they need to be art-related?
There is no maximum; please feel free to include any that would help us to get to know you and your interests. It is not necessary for you to have taken art-related courses. Think expansively about knowledge and skills that you think are relevant to the position, and the courses that have helped you gain them.
Will you accept late applications if I was unaware of the opportunity before the deadline, or if I am prevented from submitting on the due date as a result of unforeseen last-minute circumstances?
For the sake of equity for all applicants, we do not accept any late applications. We recommend planning to submit your application prior to the due date, and if you are not able to apply this year, we encourage you to apply in the future, since this program is run annually.
What is your review and interview process?
After the application deadline, there will be approximately one month for internal review. At the beginning of March, candidates will be contacted to schedule a video interview with the Director of Academic Programs and their prospective departmental supervisor.
I’m located outside of Providence/Rhode Island and getting there may be difficult for me. Are there virtual opportunities or travel assistance?
We will not be offering fully virtual internships, but we do offer travel funding for those who need assistance. On your application, you can indicate that you would require a travel stipend.
How and when are recommendations submitted?
As an applicant, you must let your recommenders know in advance that you are requesting letters of recommendation. They will receive a prompt to upload the letter when you submit your application. Letters should be received no later than February 9. You are responsible for planning ahead and requesting letters with enough advance notice.
As a recommender, you will receive an email from Submittable.com, the application platform we use, with a link to upload your letter. That will allow the letter to be filed with the application and considered by the selection committee. If you are not able to meet this deadline, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both applicants and recommenders, please note that the application system does not allow museum staff to upload a letter, update a previously uploaded letter, or re-send an upload request email; for any of these issues, please reach out to Submittable at www.submittable.com/help/submitter/.