by Katie Booth
It was difficult to know what to expect when beginning a formal internship at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, one of the largest and most important modern art museums in the world. As I walked down Kearny Street in downtown San Francisco to attend my Marketing and Communications internship orientation last July, I prepared myself for the possibility of days filled with fetching coffee and making copies while remembering to hold tight to my appreciation of being part of such a dynamic institution. I am pleased to report that my initial uncertainties subsided within the first ten minutes. I was told by the staffing manager that SFMOMA’s internship program is one of the institution’s highest priorities. From the beginning, my intern cohort of 17, including fellow USF Museum Studies graduate student Lauren Kingsley, and I were made to feel like an integral part of the museum’s mission and proud of our upcoming projects.
My experience in the Marketing and Communications department was been one of responsibility, enlightenment, and positivity. I helped to complete two major projects for the museum as it gears up for its highly-anticipated reopening in 2016 into a much larger building. I reorganized the institution’s physical history, documentation, and internal correspondence for the institutional archives. I was also trained in Tessitura, SFMOMA’s new Customer Relationship Management system, in order to continue the inputting of important constituents into the database in preparation for the month-long series of opening events. During this internship, I have had many exciting conversations that opened my eyes to the realities of museum work. While there are often conflicting schedules many details to keep track of, the entire staff is working toward one common goal: to re-open one of the most important modern art museums in the world. The culture of this museum is one of hard work and positivity, from their senior management to their interns.
Throughout this process, my supervisors have been incredibly available to me and consistently answered all of my questions. A unique aspect of SFMOMA’s internship program is “Lunch and Learn” meetings that take place with almost every department of the museum each Wednesday. After these presentations, interns are encouraged to set up informational interviews with the presenters to better view the institution from a new perspective. For example, I was able to have an hour long discussion over a cold-pressed juice with Erica Gangsei, the head of Interpretive Media at SFMOMA about her experience as a woman working in the museum field and how the museum hopes to create even more innovative and artist-centered content in the near future. The opportunity to have these discussions freely with members of the SFMOMA staff allowed me to better establish my role as as a museum professional.
SFMOMA ensures that its interns feel empowered to add to the conversation, take initiative based on their interests, and form close bonds with the members of their team. I found that my work style and passions fit so well within my department at SFMOMA that I was offered a position as an Executive Assistant and Project Manager for the Marketing and Communications Department. I am now a full-time employee of an institution that I have grown to love and respect even more since being on the inside. Stay tuned as SFMOMA gears up for our grand re-opening, I will be one of the many staff members at the ribbon cutting ceremony shedding tears of joy.
For more information on USF’s Museum Studies program, click here.