The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes current or recent undergraduate and graduate students who wish to gain archival experiences, capturing, preserving, and sharing the history of the Smithsonian. Internships are offered for spring, summer, and fall semesters and vary in length. For general information about internship opportunities with other Smithsonian museums and research centers, please visit the Smithsonian Office of Fellowships and Internships website.
Smithsonian Institution Archives internships are available with the following teams. Internships for special projects may also be offered, depending on the semester.
Staff members on the Archives Team work with researchers and other Smithsonian units. The Reference Team provides access to records held by the Archives to visiting researchers, and they respond to queries that come by phone, mail, or email. The Archives and Information Management Team works with museums, research centers and other units at the Smithsonian to identify and acquire official records that document the activities and research output of the organization.
Interns will be introduced to archival processing practices. They will work on recently acquired collections to learn basic accessioning practices, minimal processing standards (including rehousing materials into appropriate archival boxes and folders, creating basic finding aids that include box and folder lists, and applying simple preservation techniques), and adding cataloging information to the record of accession. Projects might also include small digitization tasks, and opportunities to write posts for the The Bigger Picture blog.
Digital Services team members preserve, provide access to, and build awareness for the Archives’ collections. Their efforts focus on preserving born digital records, digitizing physical collection materials, delivery of online access and context through websites, blogs and social media and management of the Archives’ online community of volunteers and lifelong learners. Key staff provide professional leadership in the areas of digital preservation, research data curation and collections management at Institutional, regional, national and international levels.
Interns will gain hands-on experience and exposure to digitization of various materials, digital object processing, risk assessment and management, digital preservation, and access. Interns will work directly with digital holdings from the Archives’ collections. Interns are expected to write a post about their internship experience for SIA’s The Bigger Picture blog.
The Archives’ Institutional History Division aims to advance the knowledge and understanding of the history of the Smithsonian Institution. The division produces historical reports, publications, and exhibits. Staff conducts and disseminates oral history and video history interviews and maintains databases, among other tasks.
Institutional History Program interns will help prepare oral history collections to post on the SI Archives website, working with digital audio, photographs, transcripts, finding aid files, and with our website templates. Interns will also prepare the collection files for upload to the website, learning about care for digital audiovisual files, PDF files, and word processing files to ensure their preservation. The intern will also gain digital humanities experience by working with website templates and uploading materials onto the Archives website. The intern may also prepare a blog post for The Bigger Picture about their work on the project.
Experts on the Preservation Team preserve paper, photographs, audio and visual records held by the Archives. Other units across the Smithsonian also rely on the Archives’ shared laboratory facilities, special equipment, and professional expertise.
Some activities involved with internships in this division include physical handling, identifying and recording preservation concerns, updating inventory lists, and generating location labels. Interns will be trained in all of the activities, from hands-on work to computer skills. Appropriate reading materials will often be assigned throughout the internship to guide the project and expose interns to common methods of archival preservation.
Conservation internships are occasionally available for current students of master’s programs in conservation or post-graduates.
Preservation of Oversized Collections, Summer 2019
Preservation interns for the Smithsonian Institution Archives will work with oversized collections located in the Archives’ map cases. These collections contain materials from the 19th-21st centuries that document the history of the Smithsonian Institution. They contain a diversity of formats and content, from architectural drawings to exhibition posters. Since 2015, SIA has worked to rehouse and reorganize the map case drawers, in order to provide more appropriate housing and improve space management. With the help of staff and interns, this project has made significant progress.
Some activities involved with this internship include physical handling, identifying and recording preservation concerns, updating inventory lists, and generating location labels. Interns will be trained in all of the activities, from hands-on work to computer skills.
Interns will also engage in diverse preservation activities such as performing inventories of the collection, creating special enclosures for selected materials, and processing a small collection. Interns may also be trained to undertake more complex activities, such as conservation treatments including humidification and flattening, and surface cleaning. Appropriate reading materials will be assigned throughout the internship to guide the project and expose interns to common methods of archival preservation.
Applicants should have excellent hand skills and sensitivity towards handling old, fragile materials is very important, along with superior organizational and communication skills. Interest in archives, libraries, art conservation, or history preferred. Knowledge about materials found in archives and libraries, particularly oversized materials, and their deterioration is helpful but not necessary.
Processing a New Collection, Summer 2019
This project entails working with a new acquisition to our holdings documenting the legal battles of a Smithsonian anthropologist who fought to achieve curatorial status. The legal cases were based on arguments claiming discrimination against women achieving the same status as men in her department during the 1980s and 1990s. The tasks would involve organizing the records, performing basic preservation work, creating a simple finding aid (box/folder list), and redacting sensitive personal information (e.g., social security numbers, etc.).
The Archives will consider applicants who meet one or more of the following criteria:
- is currently enrolled in an academic program at an accredited college or university
- has graduated from an accredited college or university within the past six months
- has been accepted to an accredited college or university, which is scheduled to start within six months of the internship start date
Applications must be submitted through the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointments system (SOLAA). The Archives will update the status of your application when a decision has been made.
- Spring- November 1
- Summer- March 15
- Fall- July 1
Please note, the following items must be included and uploaded into the SOLAA system as part of your application:
- Essay of 500 to 1,000 words describing your learning objectives
- Transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended (required)
- Two letters of reference
- Resume (cover letter optional)
Stipends may be provided, but are not guaranteed. If available, stipends will be determined according to the number of hours an individual is available to work each week. If you plan to receive academic credit for your internship, please check with your college or university about eligibility requirements for receiving a stipend and academic credit simultaneously.
For further information regarding Archives internships, contact:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
PO Box 37012 MRC 507
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Telephone - 202.633.5870
Email - SIAintern@si.edu
Graduate and post-graduate students are eligible for a limited number of fellowships in the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Many fellows have come to the Archives to use the collections for in-depth research on a wide variety of topics, from the history of science in America to the evolution of zoo keeping practices. The Institutional History staff serve as mentors and advisors for hosts of researchers, and continue to attract high-quality scholars from around the world.
Preservation fellows have found the Archives to be an exceptional place to further studies in paper and photographic preservation and conservation. With state of the art laboratories at their disposal, and a wide variety of types of materials to work with, fellows in this area enjoy mentoring and guidance from the experts on staff.
For further information on how to apply for a fellowship position with the Archives, visit the Office of Fellowships website. Applications are competitive and will be judged on the merits of the proposed research and how well they match the resources available in the Archives.
For further information on fellowships please contact:
Several very important people help the Archives each year by volunteering their time and energy to help accomplish a wide variety of archival projects. Volunteers range from recent graduates to retired individuals wishing to learn new skills, or to apply their well-developed skills in preserving the historical records of the Smithsonian Institution. Their generosity is remarkable and they bring to the workplace an added degree of diversity and experience.
Projects that are currently underway include:
- Photographic restoration
- Paper preservation and conservation
- Digital preservation
- Organizing and cataloging archival collections
- Digitizing original documents and photographs
- Preparing entries on the history of the Smithsonian for an online chronology and bibliography
If you are interested in working as a volunteer in the Archives, please visit the Smithsonian Volunteer website for further program and contact information.