Conservation Training

The Conservation Office at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) offers several types of training opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in conservation and for practicing professionals. Specialized conservation training is also offered for professionals with tribal museums, cultural centers, or preservation projects.

Ten-Week Internship in Conservation

Designed for any students interested in conservation.

Internships in the Conservation Office provide an exciting opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to work directly on the care and preservation of Native American objects. Conservation at the museum involves collaborating with Native people to develop appropriate methods of handling, preserving, and interpreting cultural materials. Interns examine the condition of selected objects—cleaning and repairing them when necessary—for exhibition or loan. Students with a background in studio art, anthropology, art history, museum studies, chemistry, or biology are encouraged to apply. Native American applicants interested in conservation and museum care practices are especially welcome. These positions may carry a stipend. See HOW TO APPLY for information on the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system (SOLAA). Applications for summer internships are due no later than February 6. The summer session begins the first full week in June.

Conservation Six-Month Pre-Program Internship

Designed for students applying to a graduate program in conservation.

The six-month pre-program internship is designed for qualified individuals preparing to apply to a graduate-level training program in art conservation. Pre-program interns perform supervised condition examinations, write reports and treatment proposals, perform photo documentation, and treat objects requested for exhibitions or loans. An understanding of Native American ethnographic and archaeological materials and approaches to conservation will be developed during the year. Interns will benefit from having gained work experience in a museum conservation department and may include work completed at the NMAI in their portfolios. This position carries a stipend. Applications are due no later than February 15. Finalists will be invited to interview by phone. All applicants will be notified by April 30. Internships commence in September or October.

Application materials required:

  • Online application
  • Essay (no more than 2 pages) addressing the following points:
    • Why do you want to become a conservator?
    • What do you hope to accomplish through an internship, and how does it relate to your academic and career goals?
    • What in particular about the NMAI interests you and leads you to apply for an internship?
  • Transcripts (unofficial are preferred). A cumulative GPA of 3.0 or its equivalent is generally expected (with withdrawals and incompletes explained).
  • Curriculum vitae or résumé
  • Three letters of recommendation; two from professional referees and one can be from a personal referee (not a family member)
  • See HOW TO APPLY for information on the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system (SOLAA).

Andrew W. Mellon Internships

Designed for students currently in or graduated from a graduate program in conservation or practicing conservation professionals.

Andrew W. Mellon summer internships are intended to cultivate practical skills as well as foster a solid understanding of the contexts of material culture, the philosophies of conservation at the NMAI, and the ethics of the conservation profession. Museum programming involves collaboration with Native people in developing appropriate methods of caring for and interpreting cultural materials. Andrew W. Mellon internships focus primarily on the survey and treatment of artifacts for exhibits at the NMAI’s facilities in Washington, D.C., and New York City, loans and other ongoing projects.

NMAI’s Conservation Laboratory, located at the museum’s Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland (metro D.C. area), is the primary work site and is accessible by metro or Smithsonian Employee Shuttle. The internship session lasts approximately ten weeks starting the first full week of June. Andrew W. Mellon internships include a stipend. Candidates who demonstrate a career interest in the conservation of material culture of indigenous peoples of North, South, and Central America are especially welcome. Candidates must have proficient English language skills (written and spoken). Applications are due no later than February 1. All applicants will be notified by April 15.

Application materials required:

  • Online application
  • Cover letter explaining the candidate’s interests and intent in applying for the internship (no more than 2 pages)
  • Curriculum vitae including basic biographical information with current and permanent addresses, telephone numbers, and email address
  • Unofficial transcripts of both undergraduate and graduate courses of academic study with an explanation of the evaluation system if it is not equivalent to that of the United States
  • Three letters of recommendation: two from conservation professionals familiar with the candidate's work and one letter of personal reference (not a family member)
  • See HOW TO APPLY for information on the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system (SOLAA).

Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships

Designed for recent graduates of recognized conservation training programs.

Andrew W. Mellon fellowships are intended to cultivate practical skills as well as foster a solid understanding of the contexts of material culture, the philosophies of conservation at the NMAI, and the ethics of the conservation profession. Museum programming involves collaboration with Native people in developing appropriate methods of caring for and interpreting cultural materials. Andrew W. Mellon fellowships involve work on the Conservation Office’s major projects and research related to projects and collections. Current projects include the preparation of artifacts for loans and for exhibits at NMAI sites in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

The NMAI’s Conservation Laboratory, located at the museum’s Cultural Resources Center in Suitland, Maryland (metro D.C. area), is the primary work site and is accessible by metro or Smithsonian Employee Shuttle. Fellowships are for one year with a possible renewal of a second year. Fellowships commence in the fall (September or October) and include a stipend and funds for travel and research, plus health insurance. Candidates with the best qualifications will be those who are pursuing a career in the conservation of material culture of the indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America. Applicants should have a proven record of research, writing ability, and proficient English language skills (written and spoken). Application deadline is March 15. Finalists will be invited for an interview and asked to submit a portfolio of completed projects. All applicants will be notified by May 5.

Application materials required:

  • Online application
  • Cover letter explaining candidate's interests and intent (no more than 2 pages)
  • Curriculum vitae including basic biographical information, current and permanent addresses, phone numbers, and email address
  • At least two examples of pertinent publications, lectures, or other written materials
  • Unofficial transcripts of both undergraduate and graduate courses of academic study with an explanation of the evaluation system if it is not equivalent to that of the United States
  • Three letters of recommendation: two from conservation professionals familiar with the candidate's work and one letter of personal reference (not a family member)

How to Apply

Applicants for the internships and fellowships will need to register and submit an online application via the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment system (SOLAA). Select "National Museum of the American Indian" from the drop-down program list. All materials should be submitted through the SOLAA system. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all required materials have been submitted by the deadline. Late submissions will not be accepted. Internships and Fellowships are awarded without regard to age, sex, race, or nationality of the applicant.