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Caroline Shanley

Political Science & Public Relations and Strategic Communications

Guggenheim Museum

This is my third consecutive museum internship, and now working for such an esteemed museum, it's clear to me that this is the field I hope to enter. When working at a large, multifaceted institution such as the Guggenheim, my role becomes much more specific than my prior internships. However, having such a specific role (i.e. working with grants from foundations), helps me learn what aspect of development I truly enjoy. It also helps make apparent how vital each and every part of everyone's role is in such a large place. The ability to work at such an incredible museum has given me access to see how renowned institutions operate internally, making me feel confident about pursuing any sort of work in the future.

Each day, my tasks are varied, but so is my academic background thanks to liberal arts. In development, we do everything from prospecting and researching donors to logging donor data to writing notes and proposals. Plus, since we're working with high-level donors and foundations, it takes a great deal of discretion to work on these projects. I get to use my writing skills that I've developed through my communication coursework and my research skills I've honed in on through my political science courses. Not only that, but my experience through liberal arts courses have prepared me amazingly to always adjust to editing, critique, and feedback. Thus, I continually feel prepared to take on more independence in my project load.

Each day, I go to the Guggenheim's office space downtown, just a block from the One World Trade Center. I am often given a daily checklist to get through, which is normally a mix of editing acknowledgment (thank you) letters, logging scanned documents in our database, and researching foundations who would be interested in upcoming exhibitions and programming. Beyond daily tasks, I have overarching summer research projects that will eventually become formal documents that we will send out to foundations. I don't work on Fridays, as the Guggenheim hosts weekly Museum Cultural Seminars, where all the interns either meet at the museum or off-site to hear from people who work in various roles in the art world - for example, we got to hear from people who work at an online auction house and an art PR firm. This is my favorite part of the week as I get to connect cross-departmentally with other interns as well as gain insight into the vast world of artistic nonprofit institutions.
The best part of my internship is working for a place that has such renown in New York as well as the art world at large. Through my past museum experiences, I was working at wonderful museums that drew mostly regional audiences. Here, I work with as well as see people from all around the world coming through. I never get tired of getting off the subway and being at such iconic places each day. Plus, the fact that the Guggenheim provides group seminars for the interns to expose us to even more incredible artistic institutions is just fabulous. It personally reinforces my love for the area of work I've devoted my life to pursuing.
The Guggenheim is an extremely large museum compared to most in the U.S. For this reason, each department is further split up than most museums. Last summer, for example, I was just a Development Intern, which meant my role spanned many aspects of development such as membership, major gifts, and fundraising. However, because the Guggenheim has such a wide donor-base, my role is specifically working with foundations: prospecting them, researching them, and communicating with them. I have fellow development interns who also specifically handle one aspect of development versus a general role. I really don't have a preference over one way or the other, but it is interesting that an institution so grand has to place multiple people on one facet of development because of their size and renown.
My first week, I got to work two exhibition opening events for the major donors, corporate sponsors, and foundations. Development often overlaps with the special events department as most special events are for the major donors' appreciation and benefit. I adore these sorts of events as it puts names to faces, and you get to interface with the very people who's passion for art, through philanthropic giving, makes our museum's operations and impact possible. Also, it's always fun to get dressed up and see the museum used as an event space!