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Student Exhibition Internship

Application Deadline: April 24, 2020

The Penn Museum offers paid internships to three undergraduate students at Penn to work with Museum staff and create a small exhibition. The year-long internship focuses on the planning, development, design, fabrication, and installation of a small exhibition featured in the Penn Museum. Interns will learn first-hand about the curatorial, content development, administrative, and design aspects of staging an exhibition in a large museum. After the exhibition’s opening, students will implement educational programs and events for the Museum’s public and academic audiences.

Year of Jazz

“Jazz is a language. It is people living in sound. Jazz is people talking, laughing, crying, building, painting, mathematicising, abstracting, extracting, giving to, taking from, making of. In other words, living.”
Willis Conover, The Book of Jazz (1976)

Ethnographic work has shown that music exists in every human culture, and archaeology has demonstrated that humans have been creating music with instruments since the time they first started making art on cave walls. Evolutionary anthropology suggests that humans have been joining their voices together in song for half a million years. What drives humans to work individually and together to create music? And what kinds of purposes does that music fulfill- rocking the baby to sleep, mourning the death of a loved one, sending a message to the gods?

Using the lens provided by the Year of Jazz theme, and drawing from the Penn Museum’s collections, we will tell the story of how music and music-making brings us together as communities and as humans. We will examine how musical principles like rhythm, harmony, and vocality combine with cultural practices like performance, collaboration, and improvisation to communicate in ways that are both deeply universal and culturally specific.

How to apply

  • A cover letter (1-2 pages) describing the skills, abilities, and experiences that you bring to the Penn Museum, with specific reference to the exhibition theme
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • A letter of recommendation from a University of Pennsylvania professor, who can speak to your qualifications for this internship

Finalists may be contacted for interviews in person or by telephone, and accepted interns will be notified in early May 2020.


Undergraduate students currently enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and in good academic standing are welcome to apply.


Interns are selected based on their academic background, research and writing skills, and ability to collaborate with peers and Museum departments.

Interns will ideally have some experience in anthropology, art history, history, philosophy, or other disciplines that explore the relationships between materiality and human experience. Candidates should be enthusiastic, organized, self-motivated, and able to work both individually and collaboratively as part of a diverse team. Successful candidates will have experience conducting research and be extremely detail-oriented; able to work on a variety of tasks as priorities require; and demonstrate excellent communication and writing skills. Candidates must be able to interact in a professional manner with Museum visitors, patrons and supporters, researchers, and other staff.

Financial Support

The Student Exhibition Internship Program is a paid opportunity. Interns are awarded a stipend of $1,400 ($700 per semester).


The internship requires an average of five hours per week. This includes two hours of curatorial and exhibition meetings each week. Interns are expected to conduct research, select objects, and write exhibition text outside of these meetings.

Timeline and Program Description

The Student Exhibition Internship Program takes place over the course of the academic year and the exhibition opens in March.

After candidates are selected, interns will meet with Penn Museum staff and the academic advisor to discuss the program and the exhibition theme. Over the summer, interns are expected to read and respond to selected readings related to the exhibition theme, in order to prepare for curatorial research beginning in the Fall semester.

Over the course of the academic year, interns will meet weekly as a curatorial team and with the Exhibitions Department of the Penn Museum to plan, develop, design, and fabricate the exhibition, as well as design and implement programming related to the exhibition. Interns will work closely with the curatorial team, the Exhibitions Department, collections staff, and conservators. In the Fall semester, interns will develop the exhibition theme, select and research objects, and write exhibition text. In the Spring semester, interns will focus on the design and fabrication of the exhibition, as well as creating and implementing programming related to the exhibition for the Museum’s public and academic audiences.

Previous Student Exhibitions

  • Corn: From Ancient Crop to Soda Pop (2015)
  • Kourion at the Crossroads: Exploring Ancient Cyprus (2016)
  • Object Speak: Media Through Time (2017)
  • And So the Story Goes...Innovations in Storytelling (2018)
  • Memory Keepers (2019)

Student Exhibition Blog Posts

More Information

For more information about Student Exhibition Internship, please contact Anne Tiballi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Academic Engagement Department