It is all very well and good for me to talk about how brilliant volunteering and internships are, but after my last post, I realized that it would probably be a bit more helpful to give a little advice about how to find these kinds of positions, as well as fully paid work. So this is going to be a fairly dry post with a few websites that you can use in your search for opportunities. You may already know of several (or all) of these, but for a complete newcomer it might help to start your job-hunt, or just to see what kinds of jobs are out there.
Paid Museum Work and Internships
Museum Studies Jobs Desk: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/JobsDesk
Museum Jobs: http://www.museumjobs.com/
National Museum Directors Council: https://www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/jobs/
These are the three websites that I regularly used to try and find a job or internship, whether it was full-time, part-time, permanent, or temporary. Each of them are updated each week, and the Museum Studies Jobs Desk in particular advertises a range of positions from across the country and sometimes internationally. You can also find positions advertised of the Museum Association website, and, if you are interested in particular museums, it would be useful to keep an eye on their vacancies page on their website.
Although voluntary positions are sometimes advertised on the same databases I mentioned above, this is not always the case. It would therefore be worth checking the websites for any local museums to see what kinds of opportunities they offer, or just asking at the desk when you visit – this is how I managed to find a position that offered the opportunity to work in a collections team. Otherwise you could check:
National Trust Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/volunteer
English Heritage Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/support-us/volunteer/
(These two sites are particularly useful as they are heavily reliant on the work of volunteers, and have sites across the UK)
One thing I will say is that larger museums and museum groups often have a more formal application process – they have very specific job descriptions and sometimes you need to be interviewed for these positions. This can be bloody frustrating and soul crushing, especially if you are rejected for voluntary as well as paid work, but, if you get these positions, you can develop new skills that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. This is great when you want to develop experience in a particular area (like documentation or collections care). Obviously, I have no idea how many organisations do this, so you will have to look into it yourself, but Birmingham Museums Trust (http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering) is a great example of this. They regularly offer positions with titles such as Curator’s Assistant and Engagement Assistant, which give you an insight into the work of these departments.
Internships to look out for
I have already mentioned where internships (paid or otherwise) can be found, but just thought I would mention a couple of the placements that I was really interested by when on the job hunt:
- Wordsworth Trust Traineeship – The traineeships offered here sound amazing, lasting for an entire year and giving you the chance to specialize in the area you are most interested in, whether it is collections, learning, visitor experiences, etc. Applications run every year, with applications in either October or November, and it is a really well thought of. I know a couple of people who have completed this internship, and they both found great new jobs really quickly. Obviously this is not guaranteed, but it is definitely not an opportunity to be missed. And an additional plus – it is paid!
- Historic Royal Palaces – HRP offers a variety of different internships each year, from curatorial to conservation to maintaining the historic gardens. Again, this is not something to miss if you have the chance of applying, giving you a real insight into how heritage organisations work (and, yes, it is paid). Besides, who wouldn’t want to work in a place like the Tower of London?
The last thing that I would like to say (in this surprisingly long list), is that even if an internship is not paid, you shouldn’t automatically discount it. Sometimes they offer accommodation or an allowance for food, and this can be manageable if the internship is short – e.g. for three months. It really helps to be flexible when searching for opportunities, so try to keep both your eyes and you mind open!