This post is part of the Museology Paid Internship Program Spotlight series, which consists of short interviews with our students who have completed internship positions with a Museology Paid Internship partner. The interview reflects on what the student learned from the experience, the UW Museology internship program, and any advice they’d give to individuals looking for internships. Our next spotlight is with Glenys Ong Echavarri, a second year UW Museology Student. She interned at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) as a photo archives intern. Her responses are below:
What learning goals did you have going into the internship? What did you hope to gain from this internship?
Generally speaking, I wanted to learn what it was like to work at an art museum and gain insight on how they operate. I’ve worked at big museums before, but never an art museum and I found its organizational structure and internal culture to be pretty different. With the actual duties of the internship, I wanted to get more experience working with archives and photographic material specifically. I had just taken the Special Collections lab in the quarter before the internship, so I wanted to put those skills into practice. It was really exciting to learn all this technical knowledge about film preservation and handling, and then getting a chance to use that right away in a real museum setting.
What did you find, in the end, you learned from your internship experience? What do you think you ended up learning from the internship?
I definitely got what I was looking for, getting insight into organizational culture and hands-on experience with photo archives. On top of the experiences I hoped to gain, I had the chance to work a shift at the opening for the Asian Art Museum. That was really fun because I got a sneak peek at the museum and all the excitement around it.
How do you think your internship experience contributed to your overall graduate experience?
It was really nice to do it in the second quarter of graduate school. I could focus on academics in the first quarter and then kind of going into the real world in the second quarter. Being able to immediately use the skills from the previous quarter made me feel like I was getting a lot out of the program.
What stands out to you about the internship program with the UW Museology Program?
I think we really benefit from how Museology has developed relationships with the museums in the area. Seattle has an incredible diversity of museums and even more so in the surrounding cities and counties. I found my internship at the internship fair where I got the chance to talk to people from so many different museums. I was already looking for an art-related internship, but there were a lot of options, like historical societies or museums related to the military or aviation. Since Museology already has existing relationships with these museums, it makes it easier to find an internship that really suits your interests, like doing education at a history museum or interpretation with living collections.
Did the fact that the internship was paid, make it different for you?
Yes, it made internships that would otherwise be unpaid more attractive. I really appreciate Museology’s paid internship pilot program, it’s reassuring to me that the program understands how unpaid work is a barrier for many people. It’s crazy that people wanting to enter the museum field are often expected to do hours and hours of unpaid work and that obviously restricts the field to the people who can afford to do that.
Is there anything you would have done differently about your internship experience?
I don’t think so, I was pretty happy with how it went and the support I got through it. The only thing I can think of is that I should have brought a fork to eat my lunch! At my previous job, most people would heat up their lunch and there are forks, spoons, and bowls for anyone to use. When you’re done, you just wash it and put it back. At SAM, I knew there was a kitchen and I thought, surely this kitchen has forks. But they didn’t! So I had to run around looking for one and fortunately people were kind enough to help me look and find me a disposable fork. It’s a silly story, but I guess it speaks to how different workplace culture can be in different institutions, even when it comes to small things like having lunch.
Do you have any recommendations for students looking into internships now?
Don’t rule out remote internships. I guess that’s not related to this specific internship experience, but when the pandemic started I wasn’t looking at any remote internships. I didn’t think I would get a lot out of them. Now I’m in the middle of one and I’m really enjoying it! Of course there is value in going into the museum to work, but I’m learning a lot and it’s good to have experience working remotely. I’ve seen that listed as a desired skill in some job and internship postings lately. I think a lot of things are going to continue to be online, even after the pandemic ends.