Museum Group Calls on Members to Offer Paid Internships

The Association of Art Museum Directors, which launched a paid internship pilot last year, passed a resolution asking members to stop offering unpaid internships, citing the inequality they create.

A leading voice in the museum world is taking a stand against one of the most controversial parts of the working experience: the unpaid internship.

The Association of Art Museum Directors earlier this month approved a resolution that encourages museums to stop the practice, which the group argues limits access to the field for some types of students, according to Jill Medvedow, the cochair of AAMD’s professional issues committee.

“Internships are an important gateway for those seeking careers in art museums, providing incredible opportunities for hands-on experience in many aspects of an institution’s operations,” Medvedow, director of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, said in a statement. “Yet by failing to pay interns, we ensure that these experiences are only really accessible to those who [are] already financially secure and, often, people who have established career networks available to them.”

AAMD has already taken steps to put its money where its mouth is. Last year, the association announced a one-year paid internship pilot program that aimed to expose underrepresented groups to museum work.

The new resolution builds on last year’s program. It does come with one exception, however, in the case of students who may not be eligible to receive pay in addition to academic credit.

“It is obvious that unpaid internships are only available to those who have the means to work without pay,” Medvedow told ARTnews. “This has been a long-standing practice, but it still needed to be articulated out loud as a first step toward change.”

The move comes as the drumbeat in favor of paid internships is growing, with one notable success story found in Congress earlier this year.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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