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Jill Medvedow. Photo: Liza Voll Photography.
Jill Medvedow. Photo: Liza Voll Photography.

Association of Art Museum Directors Urges Cultural Institutions to Pay their Interns

The Association of Art Museum Directors’ (AAMD) board of trustees has passed a resolution that calls on the more than two hundred museums it represents to end unpaid internship programs. The organization said that it adopted the resolution after several years of discussions on labor and equity issues and conversations led by professional issues committee cochairs Jill Medvedow of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston, and Mark Bessire of the Portland Museum of Art.

“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, said Medvedow, who has served as director of the ICA, Boston, since 1998. “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 AAMD launched its own paid internship program last year. While it acknowledges that some exceptions may be made, such as when students are working for academic credit rather than payment, it encourages member museums to move toward only offering paid internships immediately. The declaration follows the circulation of a public spreadsheet detailing the salaries of various museum positions. Crowdsourced from more than two thousand arts professionals from across the globe, the spreadsheet represents a growing labor consciousness among cultural workers who want greater transparency from museums.