The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Internship Program provides educational opportunities for students interested in the museum profession and related fields. Interns complete projects using the resources of the NMAI and other Smithsonian offices. Internships are an opportunity for students to learn about the museum’s collections, exhibitions, programs, and methodologies, and to meet professionals in the museum field.
Interns are selected by a review committee made up of five NMAI staff. Approximately twenty-five percent of applicants are accepted for internships during any one-year period.
Internship projects for all internships at the NMAI, except in Conservation, are listed below. To apply for an internship in NMAI Conservation, visit Conservation Training.
Information on additional fellowship and internship opportunities across the Smithsonian, including those designed specifically for Native Americans, is available via the links below.
Ten-Week Internship Session Start Dates:
Spring: Starting third full week of March
Summer: Starting first full week of June
Fall: Starting last full week of September
For each internship term, applications must be submitted electronically by the following dates:
Winter/Spring term: November 20
Summer: February 6
Fall: July 12
What are the eligibility requirements?
If you are currently enrolled in an academic program you are eligible to apply.
If you are not a current student then you may still apply, but you will need to use the essay portion of the application to state how an internship in the particular department you select will benefit your academic and professional goals.
A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or its equivalent is generally expected (with withdrawals and incompletes explained).
All applicants must register and submit an online application via the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system (SOLAA). Select "National Museum of the American Indian" from the drop-down program list.
All components of the application that are required for NMAI internships must be uploaded via SOLAA. Do not send components separately.
- Online application
- Statement of interest: questions to address are on the application
- Transcripts (unofficial are preferred)
- CV or résumé
- Two letters of recommendation: SOLAA system allows references to confidentially upload letters into your application.
When will I know if my application has been accepted?
Notification about placement occurs four to six weeks after the deadline. If sooner notification is needed, please contact the Intern Program Coordinator at email@example.com or 202-633-6645.
Is there financial support (i.e., a stipend) for this internship?
Yes, stipends may be provided to students whose applications are submitted on time and who are accepted into the program. Students receiving stipends must intern full-time (forty hours per week). Per Smithsonian Institution regulations, stipend amounts can typically range from $1000 to $4000 for a ten-week session. The amount of the stipend depends on the amount of funds available and is at the discretion of the NMAI. Students who live in the Washington, D.C., region may receive a stipend that will offset the costs of commuting—approximately $500–$1000 for a ten-week session.
Do I have to be Native American?
No! The internship program is open to anyone.
Do you accept applications from international students?
Yes! We accept applications from international students. The Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations will work with you on a visa, if necessary, after you are accepted into the program. Unfortunately, international students may experience delays in stipends and receiving an ID badge due to Smithsonian security and banking requirements.
The Smithsonian Institution welcomes the opportunity to work cooperatively with schools seeking to grant academic credit for internships. Applicants are encouraged to initiate arrangements for credit with their colleges or universities. The Smithsonian does not grant academic credit.
How competitive is the process and what makes a strong application?
The internship program is very competitive, especially in the summer. In general, strong applications demonstrate applicants’ academic and professional goals, interest in the particular department selected, and reason for wanting to be at the NMAI. During an internship at the NMAI, you will spend ten weeks in one department only. If you want to gain a lot of experience in a specific aspect of museum work, then this internship will work for you.
If there are further questions, please email NMAIinterns@si.edu or call 202-633-6645.
INTERNSHIP PROJECT DESCRIPTIONS BY LOCATION
THE NMAI CULTURAL RESOURCES CENTER
4220 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746-2863
Located just outside of Washington, D.C., the Cultural Resources Center (CRC) houses the NMAI’s collection of more than 800,000 objects, representing indigenous cultures throughout the Americas. The following list provides a general overview of the ongoing work of departments within the CRC as well as associated internship opportunities. When you begin the application process, a drop-down menu will allow you to select from the choices that are currently available.
Archive Center internships provide students with the opportunity to learn about and contribute to the physical and intellectual arrangement, description, and preservation of the NMAI’s archival collections. Intern projects may include processing manuscript, photo, audiovisual, or mixed-media collections, writing and editing finding aids and collections records, conducting condition assessments, and providing reference services. Interns may author finding aids in Archivists’ Toolkit, write collection records for inclusion in the Smithsonian’s online MARC database, and write blog posts about their experiences or collections they encounter. Students interested in library science, history of photography, Native American studies, anthropology, and related fields are encouraged to apply.
The Collections Information program supports efforts to enhance and increase the accessibility of information about the museum’s collections. As the NMAI is responsible for caring for the physical collections, it is also responsible for preserving the rich context and stories that those collections tell. Interns in the Collections Information area help develop data standards for the collections database, participate in data entry enhancement projects, and assist with collections information inquiries. Interns learn standards in preserving collections documentation generated for museum projects and preparing basic collections information for public access. Students interested in information management and databases in the museum field are encouraged to apply.
Collections Management interns participate in the day-to-day management of the museum’s collections. Through work with new accessions, interns learn the techniques and materials used to move, handle, track, support, and shelve ethnographic and archaeological objects. Interns also assist Photo Services staff in photographing new accessions. Internships include an introduction to the Integrated Pest Management Program, use of the collections database, environmental monitoring, and assisting researchers and NMAI curators in the use of the collections. Students interested in Native American studies, Native American art, museum studies, anthropology, and related fields are encouraged to apply.
Technology internships provide students with an opportunity to gain valuable experience working alongside information technology staff in support of the museum’s Internet and intranet websites, applications, and technological infrastructure. Whether running the technology-based audiovisual and theater operations in the NMAI’s exhibitions, supporting database application systems, or developing web pages and multimedia projects, interns enhance their skills in network operations, communications services, desktop support, information resource management planning, system development lifecycle management, web content management, or web design. Students studying information technology, electronic communications, telecommunication, or web development are encouraged to apply.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Fourth Street and Independence Ave., SW
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Opened on the National Mall on September 21, 2004, the National Museum of the American Indian is a major exhibition space for Native art and material culture as well as a center for educational activities and performances. The following list provides a general overview of the ongoing work of departments within the NMAI, Washington, D.C., as well as associated internship opportunities. When you begin the application process, a drop-down menu will allow you to select from the choices that are currently available.
The Cultural Arts department plans and implements all aspects of the museum’s programs calendar. In collaboration with other NMAI departments, Smithsonian museums, Washington, D.C., embassies, and national and international Native American communities, NMAI programs support and enhance the museum by bringing in Native artisans and cultural demonstrators to share the cultures of diverse Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere with the museum’s visitors. Cultural Arts interns learn about Native cultures, the history and mission of the museum, and details of museum programming, from research and outreach to documentation and implementation, within a team-oriented environment. Cultural Arts interns engage with artists and museum visitors to share what they learn about the history and ongoing activities of the museum, and learn program operations, develop logical solutions for hands-on activities, and archive Cultural Arts program records.
The Cultural Interpreter (CI) Program promotes interest in American Indian heritage, culture, history, and the NMAI’s collection by delivering interpretive programs such as tours, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for visitors. Interns in the CI program work with the CI Education Teaching Collection Team to develop, plan, and archive teaching lessons and research cultural objects. Research benefits the development of family activity products that will be tested with the public. Interns gain experience working with hands-on activities and other similar interpretation venues, and researching and developing working documents to be used in training and facilitation for staff and future volunteers. Interns also develop a “cultural presentation” on a community and present it to Education staff.
Interns in Development assist staff in the daily operations of national-level fundraising, and learn to work with the museum’s fundraising database, PANDA. Interns learn how to conduct research for prospective donors and grants, and assist in developing solicitation plans for exhibitions, festivals, educational programs, and endowments. Interns also learn about NMAI outreach initiatives to Native communities across the Americas, and about special projects.
Exhibitions interns participate in the behind-the-scenes work of developing and planning exhibitions. Most of this work takes place long before any artifacts are installed. Exhibitions internships may include research, fact checking, planning and coordination, assembling visual resources, and other steps that contribute to an exhibit design. While interns are assigned to a specific exhibit, multiple exhibits are at different stages of development simultaneously, and interns are able to observe other stages in the process. Students of Museum Studies, History, American Studies, Education, Native American Studies, or related fields may benefit from this opportunity. Previous museum experience is desirable but not necessary.
Film and Video
Film and Video interns assist in offering screenings and other public presentations, information services, and research about indigenous media makers of the Western Hemisphere and Hawai‘i. Applicants who have an ongoing research interest or experience in media production for film, radio, or the Internet are encouraged to apply.
ImagiNATIONS Activity Center
The interactive, family-friendly imagiNATIONS Activity Center provides visitors of all ages a multitude of unique learning experiences. Native peoples have long used the natural environments around them to meet their needs, and many of their innovations and inventions are part of daily life for millions today. Visitors to the center can explore some of these ingenious adaptations through a variety of hands-on activities. Interns in the Activity Center work with the public, and with the education teaching collection teams to develop, plan, and archive teaching lessons and research cultural objects. Research benefits the development of family activity products that will be tested with the public. Interns gain experience working with hands-on activities and other similar interpretation venues, and research and develop working documents to be used in training and facilitation for staff and future volunteers. Interns also develop a “cultural presentation” on a community and present it to Education staff.
Webcasting NMAI Programs: Interns work with Media staff to support the webcasting of public programs at the NMAI Mall museum. Interns learn aspects of high-definition webcasting including set-up, editing, posting to the Web, and archiving. Interns support webcasts and learn how to independently set up and operate a webcast session. This is an exciting opportunity for students who want to learn about this area of high-definition production integral to the museum’s event documentation and distribution. Since many events occur on weekends and evenings, a flexible schedule is required. Additional museum production assistance for non-webcast production is also part of this assignment.
The Office of Museum Advancement (OMA) manages the NMAI’s nationwide fundraising program for the endowment, programming, and development operations of the museum. Units that fall under OMA's direction are Development, Membership, Public Affairs, and Special Events.
Partnerships and Extension Services
The Partnerships and Extension Services (PES) unit works in conjunction with the NMAI’s Education Department to support engaging and accurate learning and teaching of American Indian history and culture in partnership with Native American communities, state Indian education departments, and tribal colleges and universities. The PES team generates a professional development plan for K–12 teachers across the United States, produces a teacher e-newsletter, and conducts outreach to related organizations. The PES unit also provides professional development opportunities such as presentations, tours, and workshops for K–12 teachers. Interns in PES focus on museum education and best practices for engaging teachers onsite and online, content and education research, and professional development opportunities for teachers. Interns also gain knowledge and experience in supporting the NMAI’s online teacher community through promotion of the teacher e-newsletter, collections research, working with select Smithsonian affiliates, and inputting teacher information into a database to increase visibility and reach of the museum’s National Education Initiative, Native Knowledge 360.
Interns in Public Affairs assist in the day-to-day media operations of the NMAI, including the News Bureau, Speakers Bureau, and media event planning. Tasks include working with public affairs staff to update media databases, pitch media stories, distribute press releases, monitor news coverage, and assemble clipping reports. Interns also write follow-up correspondence for both media and general public requests and assist with photo needs, including shooting, selecting, captioning, and distributing images. This internship is ideal for students majoring in journalism, public affairs, public/media relations, marketing, or advertising.
Public Affairs: Social Media
Social media interns in Public Affairs at the NMAI-DC learn how to plan content for a variety of social media platforms, and create extended content for longer-range planning. Interns learn how OPA utilizes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Interns learn how to analyze and report on social media trends; build writing and communication skills; increase creative thinking; and gain project management experience. Students interested in communications, journalism, public affairs, or special events are encouraged to apply.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN, NEW YORK
GEORGE GUSTAV HEYE CENTER
One Bowling Green
New York, NY 10004
The George Gustav Heye Center (GGHC) opened in 1994 in the newly renovated Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan. The Heye Center features temporary exhibitions and a range of public programs. The following list provides a general overview of the ongoing work of departments at the Heye Center, as well as associated internship opportunities. When you begin the application process, a drop-down menu will allow you to select from the choices that are currently available.
Contemporary Native Art
The NMAI aspires to become a global leader in the study, presentation, and acquisition of modern and contemporary Native art of the Americas. Interns assist with a variety of curatorial assignments in contemporary art exhibition development. Responsibilities may include managing object lists and images, writing captions, correspondence with artists, proofreading and editorial work on related exhibition print and web materials, and participation in team meetings. Qualified applicants have a demonstrated interest in contemporary Native art through coursework and experientially. Interns must also have strong organizational and communication skills and should be self-starters.
The Education department at the NMAI-NY promotes interest in indigenous culture, art, and history and the collections of the NMAI by delivering interpretive service programs, teacher workshops, and hands-on learning experiences to visitors of the museum. The department is also responsible for the creation of classroom lesson plans. Education interns learn about the planning, development, and implementation of programs including teacher, school and youth workshops, and lesson plan development.
Film and Video
Film and Video interns assist in offering screenings and other public presentations, information services, and research about films, video, radio, television, and new media produced by and about indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere and Hawai‘i. Applicants who have an ongoing research interest or experience in media production in film, radio, or the Internet are encouraged to apply.
Public Affairs: Social Media
Social media interns in Public Affairs at the NMAI-NY learn how to plan content for a variety of social media platforms, and create extended content for longer-range planning. Interns learn how OPA utilizes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Interns learn how to analyze and report on social media trends; build writing and communication skills; increase creative thinking; and gain project management experience. Students interested in communications, journalism, public affairs, or special events are encouraged to apply.