PAID Summer Internship Audiovisual Archives – National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

The Archives Center at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, is offering a paid, 10-week summer internship to a graduate student interested in audiovisual archiving and preservation.

Project Overview

Archives Center staff recently initiated a project to arrange, describe, and preserve the Center’s deteriorating film holdings in the face of environmental instability and format degradation. The Archives Center holds 4958 motion picture films in its collections, the majority of which are unprocessed, undigitized, and inaccessible to researchers.

In 2016, Smithsonian Institution Archives partnered with the Smithsonian’s audiovisual archives interest group to produce an extensive survey of audiovisual collections across the Smithsonian. The resulting Pan-Institutional Survey of Audiovisual Collections helped the Archives Center identify how many films are in its holdings, alongside relevant data about film format, estimated footage, and number of reels per motion picture. The survey lacks, however, crucial information central to identifying and tracking the films, such as updated shelf location, Archives Center collection name/number, and item-level description.

Building on the foundation set forth by the Pan-Institutional Survey of Audiovisual Collections, the Archives Center seeks an intern to survey the films in its holdings and identify the following: collection the film belongs to, whether the collection has been processed, physical condition of the film, and any preliminary data garnered from the container/housing. This is an essential first step in the Archives Center’s process to extend intellectual control over the film assets in its holdings. In the future, the Archives Center will arrange and describe all unprocessed films and outsource the digitization of high-priority films to an external vendor.

Expected Responsibilities

During the internship, the intern should expect to:

  • Conduct a survey of motion picture film in the Archives Center’s storage rooms, recording shelf location, container details, and other contextual information about each reel.
  • Identify and assess physical condition for approximately five thousand 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm film reels.
  • Handle motion picture film throughout its life cycle.

Interns are invited to participate in optional opportunities during the internship that support professional growth and foster understanding about the museum and archives fields.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this internship, the intern will:

  • Obtain experience working in a professional archival setting.
  • Handle motion picture film according to professional best practices.
  • Complete a survey of film in the Archives Center’s storage rooms to aid in future arrangement, description, and digitization of film assets.
  • Develop a better understanding of the challenges impacting the stewardship and preservation of motion picture film.

Ideal Qualifications/Prerequisites

The intern must be currently enrolled in a graduate program in Film Studies; Moving Image Archiving and Preservation; or Archives and Records Management with a focus on audiovisual preservation. Recent graduates may also apply. Individuals must have completed their graduate degrees no more than one year prior to the application deadline. Undergraduates are not eligible to apply.

Qualifications include:

  • Knowledge of film formats, handling practices, and preservation issues encouraged, but not required.
  • Demonstrated experience using ArchivesSpace to create, edit, or review archival finding aids.
  • Strong organizational skills and attention to detail.
  • Ability to work independently.

This internship is open to students of all nationalities. United States citizenship is not required. If the selected intern is a non-US citizen, they will be required to work with the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships and the Office of International Relations to determine whether or not they require and are eligible for visa sponsorship by the Smithsonian.

Timeline and Compensation

This is a ten-week, full-time summer internship anticipated to start on or after June 1, 2020.

Interns may receive program or course credit for this experience if approved by their educational institution. Though NMAH does not itself award credit, the Interns and Fellows Office will help coordinate the requirements for credit with the educational institution.

This opportunity has a guaranteed stipend of $7,000. However, selected interns will have the opportunity to apply for a stipend based on financial need. The amount of internship stipends depends on the amount of museum funds available and is at the discretion of NMAH. Internship stipends issued by the Smithsonian are not considered salary or meant as compensation but are awarded to help defray living expenses for an intern during the term of their appointment.

Interns awarded stipends who are U.S. residents for tax purposes are responsible for meeting their individual state and federal tax obligations and will receive a financial summary around March of the following year for the previous calendar year. Interns who are not U.S. residents for tax purposes will receive an IRS Form 1042-S and are likewise responsible for meeting any and all tax obligations. The stipend distribution process takes 6 weeks from the time OFI receives an accepted intern’s stipend paperwork. Stipends cannot be distributed before the start of an internship. Stipend payments are released on the 10th and 25th of each month, and the frequency of payments is decided by OFI depending on the stipend amount. If an intern is awarded a stipend, we typically recommend that an intern has at least enough external funding to cover the first month’s expenses to accommodate the wait time required in stipend processing.

Application Process

Applicants must apply through the Smithsonian online application system (SOLAA). Complete applications must include the following:

  • Internship Program application form in SOLAA
  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts (unofficial transcripts are acceptable)
  • Cover letter and resume
  • Your essay should consist of no more than 500 words (two double-spaced pages) that explains your interest in this internship, what you hope to achieve from the experience, and what you believe you can contribute.
  • Two (2) letters of reference

Applications must be submitted via the SOLAA system by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 1, 2020. Offers will be made by mid-April. The internship begins on or after June 1, 2020. Because of high user volumes, the SOLAA website may exhibit poor performance on the afternoon/evening of March 1. Please plan ahead!

For more information about this internship, contact Vanessa Broussard-Simmons, Supervisory Archivist, at

For general information about NMAH internships, visit the NMAH internship program website.

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