Working for a Museum 2,700 Miles Away

Summer 2021 DEAI Intern Amanda Lee reflects on their experience at The Phillips Collection. Applications for fall internships are now open!

My internship this past summer was much different than I ever could have imagined. If you told me two years ago that I would be interning for an art museum 2,700 miles away, completely online, I would never believe it. My mentor, DEAI Program Manager Yolanda Hester, was incredible in guiding me through this experience.

Alexis B. Many, California, 1920, Oil on canvas, 32 x 37 5/8 in., The Phillips Collection, Acquired 1920 or 1921

In spring 2021, I got tickets to visit the collection and convinced two of my friends to go with me. After falling in love with the Seeing Differently exhibition, I decided to apply for a summer internship. As an architecture major with a minor in art history, I was not sure what to expect, but I knew that I cared about diversity and representation in the workforce, especially in the museum world. Soon enough, my spring semester in Alexandria, Virginia, was wrapping up and I wasn’t sure if I had secured an internship in the DC area, so I packed up and returned to California. When I arrived, I found out I got the position in the DEAI department and realized that I would be working entirely remotely.

Despite the potential challenges ahead, I was stoked to have this chance to work for an art museum with a deep devotion to diversity and strong goals for the future of museums. After adjusting to the time zone differences (not without a few mix-ups!), I was able to get into the groove of working remotely. However, working remotely also had times when I felt incredibly isolated. As most of us know by this point, staring at a computer for hours, Zoom calls filled with talking into silence, and the lack of true human interaction is draining. Most of the interns were located somewhere around the DC area, some even got to meet up or work in person at the museum. It would have been wonderful to meet my intern cohort and build stronger relationships with them, to visit the collection, to meet the other people I only knew over screens.

Regardless, over the eleven weeks, I learned so much and worked on a variety of projects. I learned about the ways The Phillips Collection was addressing DEAI work and the initiatives they were taking to be a more inclusive institution, both internally and externally. Most of the work I did was new to me and took some adjusting. From reviewing meetings and presentation recordings to outreach and cataloguing to researching relevant DEAI work in the news—these different tasks taught me new skills. I gained insight into how departments intersect and how institutions operate on the inside. Yolanda was incredible in guiding me through this entire experience. Zoom meetings consisted of more than just work assignments, but there were always check-ins, advice about grad school, reassurance around future career possibilities, and much more. Enhancing my knowledge surrounding DEAI and relevant issues has even inspired ideas for my thesis this upcoming school year.

Despite the circumstances, the staff was so welcoming, the mentors were wonderful, and I had an amazing time overall. Remote work is limiting but also opens so many new opportunities. Although remote internships have such a different dynamic, it was completely worth it, and I would recommend it to others.

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