Seven in 10 regard unpaid internships as exploitative

MA poll reveals culture of unpaid internships at many of the nationals
Patrick Steel
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A poll on the Museums Association (MA) website has found that 71% of the sector believe that unpaid internships in museums are exploitative.

The survey follows the publication last month of the government report, Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers, which stated: “It is a fact that obtaining an internship often depends on who, rather than what, you know. Many young people miss out on the opportunity because they lack the necessary contacts or face financial barriers if internships are unpaid.”

Research by Labour MP Luciana Berger has revealed a culture of unpaid internships at government-sponsored museums, from a handful of days to nine months’ full-time.

In the 12-month period to 8 September 2010, Tate had 126 unpaid internships over its four sites; the Horniman Museum had 29; the British Museum had 24; National Museums Liverpool had 22; the National Portrait Gallery had 21; and the Natural History Museum had 20.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport also had one unpaid internship during this period. "The figures for internships I have unearthed are merely the tip of the iceberg,” said Berger.  “Interning for long periods for free is a hidden scandal. No one should have to work for free.”

Maurice Davies, the MA’s head of policy and communications, said: “Internships that are paid and openly recruited are obviously a good thing, but unpaid internships place restrictions on which people can take them.”


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