Interns at the Society of Antiquaries of London

Society of Antiquaries of London

Anooshka Rawden, 16.07.2015
Providing mutually beneficial internships
Founded in 1707, the Society of Antiquaries of London’s principal objective is to foster public understanding of heritage. The organisation has more than 3,000 fellows working across the cultural heritage sector.

The society also hosts internships with university partners. This has proved an excellent way for us to support universities in providing opportunities for hands-on, workplace learning for students, while providing us with support in recruiting and training interns through collaborative working with university staff.

Internships are crucial in supporting our work to improve care and access to our collections, but equally internships must be mutually beneficial, giving student interns the opportunity to be trained in practical skills such as collections care and management.

We have partnerships running with the Courtauld Institute in London, Sussex University and the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.

One of our most successful partnerships has been with the University of Wales. Students have been working on a project cataloguing the society’s collection of 10,000 seals. They receive training in basic conservation cleaning techniques, conservation-grade materials, handling and condition reporting.

The society helps to cover the cost of travel for interns and volunteers, and supports students to apply for bursaries.

In return the society benefits from cleaning, auditing and, importantly, photographing the collection, which will be the foundation for online access in the future.

Top tips:

  • Interview: It’s important that an intern has the chance to decide if a project is right for them, and it also provides you with a chance to ensure you are matching the right skills to the project.

  • Create a volunteer agreement: Make clear what you offer, and what is expected of an intern.

  • Training: Make sure you take the time to train interns and that you make time to support them through the project. It can be hard when you are a one-man-band in a small museum, but investing time in interns and volunteers will help your museum provide a better service.

  • Ownership: Allow interns and volunteers the opportunity to take ownership of a project.

With training and the knowledge that support is available, interns should be able to make the most of projects they are given – feeling responsible for a project builds confidence and a sense of achievement.

The key message we have learned through our partnership placements is that volunteer project opportunities need to be rewarding, and that through partnership we can achieve more than we might on our own.

Anooshka Rawden is the collections manager at the Society of Antiquaries of London