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After several years of discussions and deliberations, the Board of Trustees of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) approved a resolution calling on art museums to pay their interns. The resolution, which discussed issues of labor and equity in museums, was recommended by the organization’s Professional Issues Committee, co-chaired by museum directors Jill Medvedow (The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston) and Mark Bessire (Portland Museum of Art).
The resolution reads:
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.
“Special circumstance,” the statement explains in a footnote, refer to students who are receiving academic credit for their internship. Those may not be eligible to be paid in addition to course credit.
“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 Jill Medvedow in a statement. “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,” she continued, “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 Association of Art Museum Directors represents 227 art museum directors in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The new resolution builds on a paid internship program launched by AAMD last year as a pilot initiative with ten participating museums.
Earlier in June, a Google Spreadsheet created by museum employees detailing their workplace, position, and salary rates, circulated widely among workers in the field. Although the responses on the survey have not been verified, the “Art/Museum Salary Transparency” spreadsheet, which now lists 2616 workers, demonstrates low wages in museums across the country, including a number of unpaid internships.
Change might need to come gradually, AAMD said. “AAMD recognizes the different capacities of member museums to implement this change in the near future,” the association said in its statement. “However, addressing access and opportunity is essential to creating diverse, equitable, accessible, and inclusive art museums.”