In the last year, Elizabeth Allen ’13 (Nashville, Tenn.) has interned at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with positions that blend her interests in history, art history, and museums—and everything started with an application she considered “a reach.”
After a Baroque art class piqued Allen’s interest in museum work, the history major found an internship posting in the National Portrait Gallery’s history department in Washington, D.C. “It sounded perfect for me, but because I was only a sophomore and didn’t have any museum experience, I applied as my reach option and moved on to other applications,” she says.
But to Allen’s surprise, she landed the internship, and began working with a historian focused on 20th century American cultural history. She spent the summer doing research for an upcoming exhibition on the history of American dance, focusing on famous choreographers and dancers as well as trends in 20th century Broadway choreography. Allen also conducted archival research for two Library of Congress collections.
“Working at the Smithsonian was an amazing experience: I used and expanded the research and writing skills that I had developed at Macalester.”
“Working at the Smithsonian was an amazing experience: I used and expanded the research and writing skills that I had developed at Macalester, and I got a behind-the-scenes look at how a museum is run,” she says. “It increased my interest in museum work and public history.”
Back in the Twin Cities for fall semester, Allen was seeking an internship for credit, which she found in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ prints and drawings department, researching and cataloguing objects, and preparing labels for each one for the museum’s website. She learned how to look for markings, restorations, and watermarks, and helped examine how possible acquisitions might complement or improve the collection.
“I’ve always been interested in the role prints and printing technology have played in history,” Allen says. “At the MIA, I got to work with watercolors and drawings that span time and geographic location, from 16th century Italy to 20th century Germany.”
Her internships both informed her honors thesis and sharpened her after-Mac plans: she’s planning to pursue a career in curatorial work.