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:
AIC 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.
Tips for pre-progarm internship applications
The following tips were written by Beth Edelstein, Colleen Snyder, Amaris Sturm, and added by Natalya Swanson. They are intended to aid early career professionals applying to institutional internships.
General professionalism and organization
- Any emails related to the application should be considered professional communication. Use proper salutations, proofread before sending, avoid emojis, make sure your automatic signature is up to date and appropriate, and use an email addresses that is appropriate for the workplace.
- If asked to upload materials, submit in pdf format, unless otherwise requested.
- Label files with your last name first, then the document name. Remember, the institution will receive a lot of files named “City_Art_Museum_internship_CV” or similar, and you want to make it easy for them to identify yours.
- Be sure that you have changed ALL institutional names in your text to the proper institution – it’s easy to reuse the same letter and forget to change the name or acronym somewhere along the way. Triple check this!
- Remember to include an online portfolio (ECPN http://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/Portfolios). Even if it is very simple, this is preferable to sending individual report files with your application, unless otherwise requested.
CV or resume
The following is information that we want to be able to see at a glance in your resume:
- What year did you graduate college, what major and minor (and thesis topic, if appropriate)?
- Have you completed your requisite coursework, or when do you aim to complete it?
- Highlight art-making background or experience in a particular medium or material
- Highlight study or work abroad experience
- Separate Conservation from other art-related work experience
- Leave out your unrelated work experience – retail, restaurants, administrative etc., unless there is a direct connection to your conservation path or interest
- Include any association memberships (i.e., AIC, IIC, WAAC, ECPN). Try to have some – most organizations offer inexpensive student rates, or will work with you if you ask!
- Include any pertinent conservation-related lectures, workshops and conferences attended.
Think of your cover letter as a way of telling us more about you, your experiences and your interests, to augment rather than summarize or repeat the content of your resume or CV. Some things we look for:
Your experiences: which specialties you have had experience in, what did you learn and what do you need next?
- Start by summarizing what you’ve done (“My internships have primarily been with library and archives, and I spent one summer working on a medieval wall paintings project”) and then:
- Highlight artworks or projects that you found interesting or challenging in your previous experiences (“in rehousing a collection of African masks, I learned about the challenges of storing mixed media objects”), then:
- Tell us what experience you’re hoping to gain next (“I haven't yet had the opportunity to work with textiles but hope to gain experience in this area next” – of course, making this relevant to the internship you’re applying for!)
Your path to conservation:
- We are always curious how you found out about conservation, how you discovered this field and why it interests you. It is less important here to include general statements about your interest in museums or art in general.
- Include any experience you have with public outreach or education about art, art materials, or conservation, or any interests you have in this area.
Your reasons for applying to this internship:
- Tell us where you found out about this internship position.
- What specifically interests you at THIS institution? Is it the type of institution (large museum, regional lab, etc.), a collection or project that you read about, or even the city itself? Research the institution online, learn about its culture and its collection, look for any conservation projects highlighted on their website or social media.
- Read the position listing carefully; it will generally include some specifics about what the internship will entail. For example, if the description includes working on outdoor sculpture, mention why this interests you or would help you fill in experience that you need. Just pick one or two things – you don’t have to address everything in the listing. This shows that you read the listing closely and have a sincere interest in this opportunity.
Read your application materials out loud and have other people read them before sending it off. This can help ensure that your sentences read well and can help catch spelling or grammar mistakes. Often when you are looking at your own writing for too long, you can miss the little things!'
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.