While visiting the Museum of Modern Art on a RUSLA field trip last fall, I discovered their internship program and, specifically, the opportunities available for library science graduate students interested in art librarianship, archives, and research. I submitted my application for a spring 2012 internship program by the October 2011 deadline and heard back from the reader’s services librarian (a Rutgers Library Science Alumnae!) in December. As a second semester student, I was ineligible to receive academic credit for the internship program; however students interested in pursuing the internship for credit would be able to do so.
For anyone interested in art librarianship in special, art, or museum libraries, I highly recommend you take advantage of this amazing opportunity just an hour away from New Brunswick! Why intern at the Museum of Modern Art? You will have unlimited free access to the museum as well as exclusive invitations to attend staff events including gallery openings with world renown artists, film premieres, and free admission to many other art museums throughout the country. You can also reserve free tickets for friends and family even if you will not be joining them (for up to 6 guests per day). Sounds too good to be true? It gets better. Interns receive 40% off at the gift shop, book store, and design store throughout the duration of the internship.
Each Tuesday, the 40 interns from the curatorial, research, and business divisions attend classes and events together to learn more about the various departments working behind the scenes to keep the museum at the forefront of displaying ‘the art of our time’. The museum is closed to the public on Tuesdays, so interns partake on private exhibition tours with the curators who designed and executed the exhibits. This is an opportunity to experience, first-hand, the extensive research involved in curating exhibits and publishing exhibition catalogs.
My favorite intern activities thus far have included: a private tour of collection storage in MoMA Queens (the closest I will probably ever be to a genuine Picasso!), meeting with the director of the museum to discuss strategic planning, an introduction to digital media design applications, and touring the conservation department for painting and sculpture. During the weekly classes, interns network with other graduate students throughout the metropolitan area studying art, museum studies, librarianship, and/or information technology. Staff members leading the weekly classes always give background information about their educational and professional backgrounds and give interns advice about navigating the job market.
As the MoMA library intern, I split my time between the branches in Manhattan and Queens. Because of the nature of the discipline, the majority of materials continue to be in print form and require multiple sites to accommodate the massive collection of materials on modern and contemporary art. The collection includes materials from the mid-19th century to the current times, focusing on painting, sculpture, drawings, photography, film, architecture, design, performance, and more! The library has approximately 300,000 books and exhibition catalogs, over 40,000 files on individual articles and exhibitions, 300 periodical subscriptions, PADD files (Political Art Documentation and Distribution) and unique artist books that will cause you to ‘rethink’ the traditional book format. Ever seen a book made completely of chocolate? How do you preserve such a resource? Another reason to check out the MoMA library!
Working with MoMA collections caused me to rethink my perception of books as mass-produced information sources. Materials in our collection are simultaneously works of art themselves as well as information and archival sources of information. MoMA has many unique items that must be handled with care, preserved for audiences of the future to better understand the cultures that produced the art movements. I have been lucky enough to shadow our preservation library assistant to learn techniques for repairing damaged materials and properly housing new materials to proactively prevent damage. It is amazing to see acid-stained books, with pages completely detached and extreme spine damage, be repaired to almost unrecognizable levels! Since we are only able to take 12 classes during our time at Rutgers, this is a great way to learn about physical and digital preservation if you are unable to schedule an academic class in these areas.
During my internship, I assist with cataloging and reference work. I have the opportunity to practice with new cataloging software platforms and learn more about full-level cataloging for research-based institutions. For an intern project, I am adding geographic descriptor terms to records for artist books to make keyword searching in the catalog easier for staff and visitors. During my days shadowing our reference librarian, I learn more about the unique process for art research using primarily print-based resources. The MoMA library is open to the public 4 days a week, so interns have the opportunity to interact with museum staff, curatorial assistants, visiting scholars, students from art programs throughout New York City, artists, film makers, and other professionals.
If any of this sounds exciting or interesting to you, please visit the MoMA internship webpage to learn more:http://www.moma.org/learn/courses/internships#types. If multiple people express interest in visiting the library, the library staff could schedule a private tour for Rutgers students on a Tuesday when the library is closed to the public.
If you have an interest in art, archives, museum studies, or are just looking for an interesting internship to learn more about cataloging, reference, or preservation, definitely consider applying for a MoMA internship in the future! Private gallery tours, free museum admission, and access to one of the largest modern art library collections in the world: I promise, you’ll be glad you did it!