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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

Navigating the ritual of daily security checks before work,  having security guards as the largest component of the staff team, and occasionally losing my way despite diligently memorizing the museum’s maps – these are just a few facets of my internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Across the ten weeks in the fall of 2023, not a single day passed without a sprinkle of new thoughts and experiences. Join me as I share my internship experience at the MET and offer a quick rundown of the application process if you are considering an internship at the MET or other museums.

About the Internship

The MET’s intern cohort, comprising 20 to 30 individuals with very distinctive backgrounds, each found their niche in different departments of the museum based on their specialties. From Classicists delving into the Ancient Near Eastern artifacts to Theater majors crafting performance design, interns were able to explore working in editorial, the MET’s Watson Library, paper conservation, mummy display research, accessibility initiatives, Arms and Armor collections, hundreds-of-years-old musical instruments tuning, school and family programs design, and so much more. A museum of this magnitude has an all-encompassing array of departments behind it. Contrary to the common misconception that only art history major students have the opportunity to work in a museum, the museum’s expansive departments welcome a spectrum of talents, and it thrives on collaborative wisdom from a multitude of perspectives.

To learn about the inner workings of various museum departments, each week MET interns have the opportunity to hear staff members across all departments sharing their work experiences. We learned about navigating donor relationships, unraveling the c0llection exchanges with other museums, witnessing armor conservation, visiting the construction site that is preparing for the new exhibition, and exploring the workflow of the Imaging Studio. One thing I find invaluable about this internship is that it aims to provide interns with a variety of resources and hopes to help us find our own interests and directions. These ten weeks have given me a new appreciation for the richness of the departments involved in such a large museum. 

My Experience

Nestled  in the Education Department, my work centered on visitor interpretation and evaluation. My  major project involved an  in-depth study of the visitor engagement in the MET’s special exhibition, Manet/Degas. Through observation and analysis, I used data to form a holistic and comparative understanding of visitor behavior at the MET. I employed a visitor evaluation and interpretation method called Timing & Tracking. In each observation, I randomly picked a visitor at the entrance of the Manet/Degas exhibition and followed them inconspicuously until they exited. During my “stalking,” I drew their movement trajectory on a floor plan that indicates the gallery structures and placement of the artworks and wall texts, and jotted down behaviors, engagement level, and dwell time. These observational data help us pinpoint what was done effectively and what could do better, offering insights for future curations.

As an anthropology major, this project emerged as a golden opportunity to delve into the study of humans, providing me with preliminary insights into conducting fieldworks. So again, I have to say that the MET’s internship program is tailored to align with each individual’s expertise and interests, truly ensuring that each intern discovers their unique passion.

Application Process

Reflecting on the internship application process, I found it straightforward and transparent. The pivotal element, a series of  short essay questions, demanded an honest exploration of the applicant’s chosen department and motivations. Subsequent rounds led to an interview with the department supervisor, in which I talked about my past internship experience in the museums and my major. I think sincerity is the key. No matter what department you are interested in, the MET always seeks individuals with a genuine love for art, a sentiment shared even by the security guards – many of whom are artists themselves, drawn to the MET to safeguard the treasures within.

Speaking of security guards, one of the most unexpected and delightful surprises of my internship was the friendships forged with them. Amid my gallery observations, chance encounters led to gradual connections. Looking back on my fall internship at the MET, I’ve come to appreciate a sense of the thickness of life. Diverse stories and unique characteristics define the individuals I’ve observed and approached, and to be able to connect with these people is the most beautiful aspect of this journey.

So, if someone asks me what I do at the MET, I would say: “stalking” visitors, trying not to get lost, and befriending security guards.

Martina Liu

Columbia Barnard '25

Martina is a student at Barnard College. Her passions for both travel and cinema represent her dual approach to understanding the world, with a hope to visit every country in the world someday. She is excited to explore new experiences in writing with Her Campus.