Reading Museum

Reading Museum

Stuart Kennedy, 16.07.2015
A collaborative approach to paid internships
In 2013 Reading Museum was awarded Arts Council England funding for a collaborative project with the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading.

One component was to develop a series of internships paid at minimum wage. Our key objective was to ensure that when each intern started they would have a well-planned experience that benefited both the museum and themselves.

The interns were not expected to have a master’s qualification but they had to show an interest in museums. However, nearly every application we received came from people with degrees and postgraduate qualifications.

We produced specific projects for the interns to work on, such as researching our collection for a new online catalogue or assisting with the preparation and installation of exhibitions.

These projects let them get their teeth into the real work of the organisation, showing the intern that we valued having them and trusted their abilities.

Our interns have been brilliant and have impressed staff with their work. They have been enthusiastic and keen to learn; offering fresh voices and questioning what we do.

But to be successful we recognised the internship was not just about what the museum wanted to get out of it. We discuss and plan training with our interns that will benefit their career development, gradually expanding their work from the specific project.

By the time they leave they are trained in collections management, writing museum text and have gained general experience in the workplace. We want them to leave better prepared for their chosen career, even if that is outside the museum sector.

The online catalogue and exhibition would not have been possible without the work of interns. For us, paid internships have been incredibly positive and the museum continues to explore funding opportunities for paid internships.

Just as importantly, however, three of our five interns have moved straight into museum careers and giving them that leg up has been hugely rewarding for all of us who supported them.

Stuart Kennedy is the assistant curator of collections and learning at Reading Museum and Town Hall