Smithsonian Internship Program
Spend a semester in Washington, D.C., working side-by-side with some of the nation’s preeminent scholars and museum professionals. Smith College’s Smithsonian Internship Program allows qualified juniors and seniors to conduct hands-on research and program development at one of the institution’s many museums, research centers and other sites in D.C. Students work, study and research while enjoying life in the nation’s capital.
News & Announcements
Congratulations to the newly accepted Fall 2023 SIP student cohort!
There will be three accepted student meetings on April 5, 12, and May 3 during the lunch hour. Please check your email for details and make every effort to attend.
Established in 1980, the Smithsonian Internship Program at Smith College is unique among study away options. Our program works closely with the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Internship Programs to match students with a mentor-supervisor at one of the over twenty Smithsonian sites in D.C. During their internships, students assist in creating exhibitions and programming, conduct research with archival and museum materials, and work side-by-side with museum professionals on a great range of projects. Because the Smithsonian Institution comprises so many sites, students from many different disciplines are encouraged to apply.
In addition to the internship, students attend a weekly museum studies seminar taught by a local professional, which usually includes guest speakers and field trips. Twice a month the program director comes to Washington for a research seminar in which students develop and present their independent projects. Recent student research projects have addressed mail art, Indigenous astronomy, the Women’s History Museum, food insecurity in DC, the work of John Singer Sargent, Indian Ragmala paintings, queer country music, and more. These activities constitute a full semester of course credit.
What is the internship itself?
Before COVID19, students would work side-by-side with their mentors at one of the many Smithsonian units, four days a week. In Fall 2022 students lived in D.C. and worked via virtual or hybrid models, depending on the unit and public health conditions. For Fall 2023 we hope students will be able to return to in-person work, three days a week, with the continued option of some telework.
What are the other components of the program?
In addition to the internship, students take a seminar in museum studies that meets once a week on Friday mornings. This is a course with the expectations of a seminar taught at Smith (readings, assignments, etc), but also includes guest speakers, site visits, and field trips. In Fall 2022, the class met at locations around D.C. including the National Gallery and spent a morning at Mount Vernon.
Students are also required to develop a substantial independent project (equivalent to a 40-page paper), which is evaluated by Smith faculty. The independent project is supported by the twice-monthly research seminar, taught by the program director. The course includes sessions on building research skills, an orientation to the Library of Congress, and occasional behind-the-scenes visits to SI resources like the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History. It provides a forum for development, feedback, and check-ins over the semester. Select projects can be found on SmithScholarWorks.
How many credits will I receive, and in what subject?
The Smithsonian Program is a 16-credit program. Students receive 4 credits for their internship (AMS 410) , 4 credits for the museum studies seminar (AMS 411) and 8 credits for the research seminar (AMS 412) and final project. All appear on the transcript as American Studies credits. Often one or more of these courses can be used for credit within the major department/program.
Do I have to be an American studies major?
Absolutely not. Students from any major may apply. Internships span a wide range of disciplines, as does the Smithsonian Institution itself. In the past few years students majoring in anthropology, art history, data studies, education, geology, government, history, and SWG as well as American Studies, have participated in the program.
When do I start? How long does it last?
You begin your internship the day after Labor Day and finish on the final day of Smith classes. Vacations and holidays are negotiated with your supervisor.
What does a typical workday look like? [pre-Covid]
Typically, student interns work from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., four days a week. This schedule, however, is dependent on the units and mentors. Students commute to work via Metro, Metrobus, or on foot. They tend to check in with their curators every day or so, but are generally independent during the workday itself, working on the computer, attending meetings, conducting research. Day-to-day activities might include sending emails; attending meetings, lectures, and special events; and proofreading previous work. After work, students might attend talks or museum activities, head to a public library or the Library of Congress to do some homework, go out with friends, or attend a cultural or networking event.
What about housing?
You are responsible for your own room and board. The College employs a recent Smith graduate as a liaison to help with housing. Though she will not find housing for you, she will recommend strategies for locating places on your own. There are also several agencies in D.C. which specialize in finding housing for the many interns who work there.
In 2022, popular housing options were Thompson Markward Hall, Intern Housing Networks such as WISH or WIHN, and Airbnb.
What happens to my financial aid?
Your family contribution will be determined exactly the same way as it would be if you were studying at Smith. The only differences are 1) Smith College may replace Federal Work Study or Campus Work Study with a loan and 2) you will not be charged by the college for room and board but will be responsible for paying for your own housing. There are also opportunities to apply for need-based and project-specific assistance.
What do I need to do once I've been accepted?
What can I do with this experience after Smith?
Graduates of the Smithsonian Program are well positioned to pursue graduate work in art, history, and science museums. The director and chief curator at the Smith College Museum of Art is a Smithsonian Program alumna, as are many of the curators and staff at the Smithsonian itself.
How To Apply
How To Apply
The applications for Fall 2023 are due on Friday, March 10, 2023 by 4:00pm. Decisions about the students who have been accepted for the internship go out on March 24, 2023. Students must notify American studies of their intent to participate by April 3, 2023.
Applications must include the following:
- 4-6-page sample graded paper with a contextualized paragraph-long explanation about how this paper is relevant to the Smithsonian Internship Program.
- Names of two references who will provide recommendations, one of which must come from a Smith faculty member. Students should ask faculty/staff who know them well enough to speak about their ability to work as an intern. The SIP admin will email references a link through which to submit their letter of recommendation.
- Current resume.
- An unofficial transcript (minimum GPA is 3.0) can be downloaded to a pdf from Workday (job aid instructions).
- List of relevant courses with titles, names of instructors, grade received, and bulleted explanation of relevance to internship.
- Statement of Interest of 600-1,200 words and should cover the following questions:
- What made you want to apply to this particular program?
- What are your learning goals for the internship and how are these related to your academic and career goals?
- How have your academic or outside experiences prepared you for an internship at the Smithsonian?
- If you could intern at any Smithsonian Institution sites or work on any internship project what would it be? i.e. ,what is your dream SI internship and what would you be doing?
The Smithsonian Internship Program director works with staff in the Office of Academic Appointments and Internships (OAAI) at the Smithsonian and reaches out to the various museums for internship project proposals. This tab includes the project proposals that staff at those museums have sent us so far. More will come in after the March 10, 2023, application deadline, so please be sure to check back often to see if anything new has been added.
Application is available on the website or by contacting Jeanette Wintjen. The Smithsonian program director chairs a general information meeting about the program for interested applicants.
Mid-February to Early March
Deadline to submit the application, including sample graded paper, two references, resume, unofficial transcript, relevant course list, and statement of interest.
Notifications are sent to students for acceptance into the program, contingent upon successful completion of the current semester. Projects are not yet assigned.
Students notify the American Studies department of their intent to participate. Students must submit either an “Approved Study Off-Campus” or “Studying Elsewhere Senior Year” form with the Registrar. The Registrar's Office then registers these students for AMS seminars 410, 411 & 412.
The Smithsonian program director meets with students to announce who is assigned which project. Students create a SOLAA account with the Smithsonian.
The Smithsonian liaison will speak with students about housing and other non-academic matters.
The American Studies department confirms students’ successful completion of the spring semester with the Registrar’s office. If satisfactory, students are considered fully accepted into the program.
The Smithsonian contacts students with details about their background security checks.
Students are expected to make housing arrangements for living in Washington, D.C., and to submit their security paperwork to the Smithsonian for processing before the end of August.
Tuesday after Labor Day
Students (now interns) have an orientation meeting in D.C. with a representative from the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships. That week, the Smithsonian program director will meet with the interns for their first colloquium meeting.
September through December
Interns work at their assigned sites under direct supervision by Smithsonian curators, as well as working on their own individual research project. The interns meet weekly to attend a seminar on museum studies. They also meet bi-monthly with the Smithsonian program director and periodically with a liaison.
On the last day of Smith's classes, the interns’ research projects are due both to their Smithsonian supervisors, and another copy to the American Studies office at Smith.
All grades are submitted to the American Studies department in time for the Registrar's office early January deadline.
Recent interns have worked at the following:
- National Museum of American History
- National Air and Space Museum
- Smithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- National Museum of the American Indian
- Smithsonian Institution Archives
- National Postal Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- Smithsonian American Art Museum
“I was able to take what I had been learning in my classes at Smith, putting my knowledge into action, researching, writing and working on projects that covered every one of my interests.”
Hannah Elbaum ’19
“I loved the liveliness of D.C., my fantastic supervisor and the incredible Smith students I became friends with during this unique program.”
Samantha Page ’17
“Everyone with whom I had the privilege of working at the Smithsonian was enthusiastic, helpful and ensured that my experience was memorable and meaningful.”
Sylvie Wise ’17