In a bold (and valiant) gesture, the board of trustees of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) passed a resolution this past week calling for art museums to start paying their interns. The resolution reads as follows:
WHEREAS, internships provide critical opportunities for students considering careers in art museums, as well as experience necessary for entering the workforce; and
WHEREAS, paid internships are essential to increasing access and equity for the museum profession;
NOW, THEREFORE, the Board of Trustees of the Association of Art Museum Directors:
RECOMMENDS, that art museums should pay interns, except in special circumstances justifying such an arrangement.*
The section that states “that art museums should pay interns, except in special circumstances justifying such an arrangement” seems both suspicious and antithetical to the purpose of the resolution. However the annotation that follows that section confirms that this language applies only to circumstances in which students who are receiving academic credit for their internship are not eligible to get paid while receiving course credit at the same time.
Jill Medvedow, co-chair of AAMD’s Professional Issues committee and director of the ICA Boston, states: “Providing paid internships is an important step for the art museum field in creating and sustaining a diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive set of opportunities.” She goes on to say:
“Internships are an important gateway for those seeking careers in art museums, providing incredible opportunities for hands-on experience in many aspects of an institution’s operations. Yet by failing to pay interns, we ensure that these experiences are only really accessible to those who already financially secure and, often, people who have established career networks available to them.”
The resolution comes on the heels of AAMD’s own paid internship program, which started last year with 10 participating museums. The Association also heard from economist Richard Reeves at its annual meeting in January, who spoke further on the issues of unpaid internships and how they maintain inequality in the workforce and stifle economic mobility. The lecture gave insight into AAMD’s decision to pass the resolution this summer. We can only hope that many museums (and art institutions in general) will quickly follow suit.