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Smithsonian Internship Program

Smithsonian Museum - exterior

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 enables qualified juniors and seniors to experience hands-on research and guided learning 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

Smithsonian Internship Program applications are open!! The deadline is February 26, 2024 at 4:00pm.  

Please read the "How to Apply" section below and click on the Smithsonian Internship Program Application form when you've gathered all your materials to submit. If you have any questions, please email

About the Smithsonian Program

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 Academic Appointments and Internships to match students with a mentor-supervisor at one of over twenty Smithsonian sites. 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.

In addition to the internship, students attend a weekly museum studies seminar taught by a local professional. Twice monthly research seminars with the program director helps 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. Together, these activities constitute a full semester of course credit.


What is the internship itself?

Students work  side-by-side with their supervisors at one of the many Smithsonian units three to four days a week. The work is varied. Depending on the venue and placement, students may serve as junior curators, exhibit or event team members, research assistants or archivists in training, among other opportunities. 

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.The class frequently meets at locations around D.C.including the National Gallery and Mount Vernon.

Students are 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, which includes sessions on building research skills, using the Library of Congress, and occasional behind-the-scenes visits to SI resources like the Archives Center at the National Museum of American History or the State Department's National Museum of American Diplomacy. 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 the guided learning experience of their internship (AMS 410) , 4 credits for the museum studies seminar (AMS 411) and 8 credits for the research seminar (AMS 412). 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 all majors are encouraged to 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, astronomy, data science, education, government, history, and study of women & gender, 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. Classes follow the Smith academic calendar.

What does a typical workday look like? 

Typically, student interns work from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. This schedule, however, is dependent on units  and supervisors.  Students commute to work via Metro, Metrobus, or on foot. They tend to check in with their supervisors every day or so, but are generally independent during the workday itself. Day-to-day activities might include sending emails; attending meetings, lectures, and special events, conducting research or proofreading copy. After work, students frequently 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 with locating housing on your own..

Popular options are Thompson Markward Hall, Intern Housing Networks such as WISH or WIHN, Airbnb, and living with an alum.

What happens to my financial aid?

Your family contribution will be determined exactly 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 2) you will not be charged by the college for room and board. There are opportunities to apply for need-based and project-specific assistance, and recently students have received a cost-of-living stipend.

What do I need to do once I've been accepted?

Accepted students should confirm their participation with the director by the first monday of April. They must also file an Approved Study Off-Campus form or Studying Elsewhere Senior Year form with the College. 

What can I do with this experience after Smith?

Graduates of the Smithsonian Program are well positioned to pursue graduate work and employment 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 and in the DC area.

How to Apply

How to Apply

The applications for Fall 2024 are due on Feb 26, 2024 by 4:00pm. Acceptance decisions will go out on March 25, 2024. Students must notify American studies of their intent to participate by April 1, 2024.

Smithsonian Internship Program Application form

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. The paper itself does not have to contain markings or feedback, but you should supply the grade in your paragraph.
  • Names of two references who will provide letters of recommendation. One of which must be a Smith faculty member. Students should ask faculty/staff who know them well enough to speak about their ability to work independently. The SIP admin will email references a link through which to submit their recommendation.
  • Current resume.
  • An unofficial transcript (minimum GPA is 3.0) 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 that 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?
    • What would your dream internship experience look like?


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. The Smithsonian program director chairs a general information meeting about the program for interested applicants.

Mid-February to early March
Deadline to submit application

Late March
Notifications sent to students for acceptance into the program, contingent upon successful completion of the current semester. Projects are not yet assigned.

Early April
Students notify the program director 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 in the fall.

The program director meets with students to announce project assignments. Students create a SOLAA account.

Late April
The liaison meets with students about housing and other non-academic matters. 

The program director confirms students’ successful completion of the spring semester with the Registrar’s office. If satisfactory, students are considered fully accepted into the program.

Early June
The Smithsonian contacts students with details about background security checks (via DocuSign). 

Students are expected to make housing arrangements for living in Washington, D.C., and to submit their appointment 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.Friday after Labor Day

First Day of class for museum studies and research seminar courses.

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 meet bi-monthly with the Smithsonian program director and periodically with the liaison.

The last day of Smith classes is the final internship day. Final projects are due at the end of the exam period.

January (following year) 
Students receive feedback on research projects 

March (following year)
Students consider submitting revised project for Gardner Prize and SmithScholarWorks.

Student Experiences

“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

Contact Program of American Studies

Wright Hall 225
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: 413-585-3503 Email:

Director: Christen Mucher

Administrative Assistant: 
Karikari Ohene Acheampong