Internships and Fellowships
Internships are paid or unpaid positions that are typically short-term and/or part-time. Emerging conservation professionals may complete internships at different points in their early career: while preparing for graduate training (pre-program internships); while enrolled in a graduate program to supplement coursework or meet graduation requirements (part-time internships, summer internships, or final year internship placements); and occasionally, immediately following the completion of an advanced degree.
Fellowships are specifically designed for emerging conservation professionals who have recently completed an advanced degree in conservation, preservation, science, or related fields (Masters or PhD). Generally, they are paid term positions that are full-time and last 1-3 years.
For more information, including an overview of different phases of training in conservation (pre-program, graduate, and post-graduate), see the “Become a Conservator” section of the AIC website.
There are several ways to find training or employment opportunities in conservation:
- Positions are typically advertised on an institution’s or company’s own website. These can often be found under the “About” section of an institutional site, under sub-headers such as “Career Opportunities,” “Jobs,” or “Get Involved.” Training or educational opportunities, such as internships and fellowships, may be part of a grant project or educational program managed by a department outside of Human Resources. These opportunities may be found under “Education” on an institutional website.
- Positions and programs are advertised online via jobs boards and email listservs (see below).
- The conservation field is small, and sometimes opportunities are found by word-of-mouth. Meeting local professionals and becoming familiar with local institutional and private practice labs can be useful in building your professional network. Click here to navigate to the Wiki page on Networking.
Websites and listservs where internships, fellowships, jobs, field school, and volunteer opportunities are posted include:
Cons DistList: This listserv is sponsored by FAIC and is open to anyone working in the field of conservation or preservation.
AIC Online Member Community: Training and job opportunities are posted in a variety of locations across the AIC Online Member Community. For instance, members of AIC may join Specialty Groups that are relevant to their interests. Membership in these groups includes subscription to closed member content, blogs, and discussion boards.
University of Delaware Department of Art Conservation: This site was developed as a service to University of Delaware students. Listings are gathered from similar posting lists available online, as well as from announcements submitted directly to the department. Note: This site includes links to other sites with compiled job and internship postings.
USAJobs: All federal positions are posted on this site (this includes Smithsonian institutions, Library of Congress, the National Parks Service, etc.). Applications are entered and processed through this portal. The US Office of Personnel Management periodically hosts online webinars to provide guidance and helpful tips for using this system.
NYFA Classifieds: New York Foundation for the Arts hosts a Classifieds section. Note: it is not limited to New York!
PreserveNet: Lists professional employment and internship opportunities for those in the preservation industry and allied fields. Note: This site includes links to other sites with compiled job and internship postings.
IIC Jobs Board: The International Institute for Conservation (IIC) lists current vacancies in heritage conservation worldwide.
Icon Jobs Board: Institute for Conservation (Icon), based in the UK, hosts a jobs board that is open to its members.
LinkedIn: A business- and employment-oriented social networking service.
Indeed: A search engine for job listings.
Please note that this list is not comprehensive.
Preparing Application Materials
Please see the Education and Training Committee's Resources on Requesting Letters of Recommendation and Writing Letters of Recommendation. The Wiki page Sharing Your Work has additional information on application materials, such as resumes, CVs, and portfolios.
Contributor: Jessica Betz Abel
Preparing for the Interview
- Wear professional clothes, but also things that would be appropriate for a lab/on a site in general - no tank tops, no open toe shoes, etc.
- Make sure to do research on the collection/site/project - be able to relate your past work experience to the work you would be doing for the museum/company or be explain how this work will help you achieve your goals professionally.
The Interview Itself
- Be prepared with at least a few questions of your own - how many other conservators are working there? What sort of supervision or support will you receive from your supervisor or peers? Are there opportunities for research and/or professional networking such as conferences? What sorts of projects will you be assisting with?
- Be prepared to talk extensively about any and all projects in your portfolio. Explain what you learned from each project - yes, that means admitting that you may have made a mistake or that you might do it differently now knowing what you know.
- For onsite interviews, you may be asked to look at an object and either speak about it briefly or write a quick condition report.
Following the Interview
- Always follow up with a thank you message. This can be in the form of an email or a hand-written note.
- Be patient. These things can take a while.
Making the Most of the Experience
Watch this recording of ECPN Webinar How to Make the Most of Your Pre-program Internship with Emily Williams, Thomas Edmonson, Ayesha Fuentes, and Leanne Gordon; September 24, 2013
Below is some advice from the webinar on how pre-program interns can make the most of their internships:
- Develop transparency with supervisors: For pre-program interns to gain a clear understanding of internship goals and intern responsibilities, pre-program interns should frequently meet with supervisor(s) to discuss ongoing projects.
- Organize lab tours: A great way for interns to meet conservators and learn about different conservation treatments is by visiting conservation labs. Lab tours can provide pre-program candidates with a chance to gain a broader understanding of different conservation specialties, the tools used in each discipline, and the differences and similarities of conservators in private practice, museum labs, and regional conservation centers.
- Meet with other pre-program interns: To ensure that a pre-program intern is making the most of their internship, it is always recommended to meet with other interns. Sometimes speaking with fellow interns can help create a better understanding of how pre-program internships are typically structured.
- Remain professional: Be sure to demonstrate good letter-writing skills when sending correspondences to conservators and/or current supervisors. If contacting conservators for the first time to inquire about a position, consider introducing yourself first.
- Gather diverse experience: Pre-program interns are strongly encouraged to gain experience interning in different conservation specialties. Not only does gaining diverse experience broaden a pre-program candidate’s understanding of the profession, it can also reveal a specialty or material that is most intriguing to pre-program candidates.
- Develop hand skills: Pre-program interns should continue to focus on object handling skills throughout their training. It is equally important for interns to become comfortable with different conservation tools.
- Take photographs: While documenting before and after treatments may be a necessary component of a conservation internship, it is also imperative to capture during treatment photography. Consider taking close-up shots that showcase treatment progress. Additionally, it never hurts to include images of pre-program interns working on projects independently and collaboratively with supervisors and fellow colleagues.
- Build resilience: It is important to note that not all intern tasks are going to be full of excitement and or go smoothly. If accidents happen, it is imperative to discuss with supervisor(s) how another accident can be avoided. (Added tip: check out ECPN’s Webinar “Picking Up the Pieces: Accepting, Preventing, and Learning from Mistakes”)
- Embrace people skills: Learning how to communicate with supervisor(s), colleagues, and/or fellow interns is always important in at internships and within the profession.
- Prepare a portfolio: Sometimes it is beneficial to have an art portfolio handy when pre-program candidates go on interviews for internships. This can be helpful if the candidate does not have a conservation portfolio because it still demonstrates good hand skills and knowledge of craft. (For information on conservation portfolios, see the Portfolios section of the Sharing Your Work Wiki page).
- Work on self-presentation: It never hurts to inquire about application feedback! This can help determine how to prepare oneself for future interviews and internship opportunities.
The overview report of FAIC’s 2014 Compensation Research is a useful resource for emerging professionals who are searching for training and employment opportunities. This survey captured compensation data for fellowship positions, but did not include internship positions.