My summer working at the African American Museum in Philadelphia has proven eye-opening in all respects. Coming into this internship I had very little understanding of what the daily-doings of a public programmer were, let alone those of an entire museum staff. Since these murky beginnings I have developed a strong relationship to my work and colleagues, and further, feel prepared to engage in the work of museum studies in the future.
My initial objectives for this internship were:
- Contextualization: working with colleagues to think about how to narrow in on a specific exhibition, understanding thematic content and subsequent complimentary programming
- Learning marketing languages: social media promotion, incorporating institutional values into promotional material, and paying attention to specific audience contexts
- Learning the nuances of AAMP as an institution
I’ve stayed strongly to my objectives and thus far have exercised all of these new skills. For example:
- I create all content for the AAMP social media accounts and work collaboratively on e-newletters.
- I meet and collaborate with artists, the director of curatorial services and fellow programming colleagues.
- I have become comfortable and confident in my knowledge of AAMP as an institution.
Given all of these amazing opportunities, I can’t help but be surprised by just how hands-on my time at AAMP has been. My supervisor and colleagues are extremely supportive and have given me lots of creative responsibility. For instance, as we plan for the upcoming fall/winter exhibition, I have been integral in the conceptualization and planning of five public programming events. My opinion and creative expertise has been respected and encouraged, and I see my work being taken seriously by my colleagues.
Thinking towards the future, I hope to continue my work in black cultural spaces, and specifically, the intersection of black creative and activist spaces. I think that I work very well in an arts-oriented environment, as it has afforded me a more dynamic daily schedule than most office jobs, and through this, have further honed my workshopping and collaborative capacities. My supervisor has become a mentoring figure and is helping me to think towards the future in regards to another possible position with AAMP during the year.
As mentioned previously re: learning objectives, I have learned a lot about the inner-workings of this particular institution and I think that is the most valuable lesson thus far. Museums seem like such enigmas, and the day-to-day tasks feel hard to grasp based on elaborate, perfectly-executed exhibitions; however, getting to know the roles and responsibilities for myself and my colleagues has granted me with the opportunity to even further develop my team-building skills.
Academically speaking, I am definitely interested in pursuing more museum studies courses now that I have had this experience. As a Philosophy major and Africana minor, I have spent my time at Bryn Mawr honing my critical thinking and writing skills, working to think across contexts and through thick, philosophical questions. Entering this position, I wondered how much of these skills would be of use to me in the realm of programming; however, I realize now how crucial it is to have these kinds of awarenesses when working at a creative institution which aims to reflect and cater to the black community of Philadelphia.
Learning the inner-workings of this institution has made me even more open to considering the idea of a career in museums/cultural institutions outside of academia, and I hope to continue building these relationships and exploring academically the different possibilities for a career in museums and curatorial work.