By Allie Hewett, Administrative Intern and Baylor University Graduate Student
In Washington, D.C., if spring is the season for cherry blossoms, then summer is definitely the season for interns. As one of the lucky interns at the National Portrait Gallery, I have spent my summer researching museum branding and product development for the associate director of operations.
As a graduate student in Baylor University’s Museum Studies Program, I was eager to learn from the NPG staff and tackle a new challenge. My graduate program prepares students for careers in the museum field by enhancing subject-specific knowledge with courses in education, collections management, and exhibition design, and allows us to gain hands-on experience while working in the on-campus museum.
Surprisingly, my academic background is not related to art history—my undergraduate major was biology! My path to the museum field was the result of many positive experiences visiting museums of all types, and working and volunteering in natural history museums and zoos.
Despite my background, in no way do I feel out of place at the NPG. I am surrounded by scientists, including Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein, and E. O. Wilson; I feel connected to these extraordinary Americans and inspired by their achievement. In fact, I believe this is what makes the National Portrait Gallery unique—as a museum that focuses on both art and biography, its collections are filled with sitters from diverse areas of achievement. Every visitor finds someone to whom he or she can relate.
The goal of my internship project is to ultimately increase awareness of the National Portrait Gallery and its mission. Branded merchandise allows visitors to proudly promote the museum and represent their experience to the rest of the public. (Plus, who doesn’t love shopping?) Collections-related merchandise also reminds visitors of their experience. This project has required interdepartmental collaboration, as I have researched copyright and personality-rights issues and reviewed past products and the product-development process.
I have learned a lot at the National Portrait Gallery, and am grateful for such a beneficial internship experience. My fellow departmental intern and I have worked hard to create new merchandise, and hope that visitors will wear NPG gear with pride! What type of merchandise would YOU like to see available in the museum shop?
The National Portrait Gallery has internship opportunities during all seasons; see our NPG internship page.