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Journal of Visual Culture

Laura Adams, History of Art/Philosophy Undergrad,
Summer 2003

I spent the summer of 2003 as an intern at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently, the museum's collection of over 44,000 works is in storage while the Old Patent Office Building is completely refurbished. My particular project involved researching objects for the curator of the Luce Center Foundation - a new facility that will open within the museum in 2006. The Luce Center will display several thousand objects in a variety of media and offer visitors interactive, didactic, and in depth access to the museum's collection. Specifically, I investigated their vast holdings of 20 th century jewelry. This involved studying and handling the actual objects, in some cases talking with the artists who created them, and then writing approximately fifty labels, which will eventually be displayed in the museum.

More broadly, I learned about the many operations of a major art institution. I met professionals in every department, from the packing and shipping crew to the director of the museum. I worked closely with curators, exhibit designers, managers of the online database, museum educators, and the registrar, all of whom were more than willing to talk about and involve me in their work. I also had the opportunity to visit the museum's conservation lab and privately tour the collection in storage. Additionally, I visited exhibitions at the many other museums located in Washington, DC.


This internship introduced me to a wide variety of arts-related careers that I had never before considered. The experience was enormously helpful in demonstrating the applicable side of my academic work. I met a number of employees and students with interests similar to mine and benefited from their advice and friendship.