Internship Program

The Archives Center offers opportunities for fall, spring, and summer internships.  Intern projects involve processing (arrangement, description, and re-housing archival collections), cataloging. and providing reference assistance to on-site and remote researchers. Broadly, all interns contribute to the Archives Center program by preparing collections for research use, disseminating information about the collections through print and electronic media, or working directly with patrons.

Important Announcement!

The Archives Center has moved temporarily (2012–2014) to a smaller space during a major building renovation project at the National Museum of American History. Although we will continue to accept and review intern applications, we may not be able to host interns. Consideration and selection will occur on an “as needed basis” and placement will be dependent upon staff availability, Archives Center project priorities, and space availability during this two year period.  Before submitting an application online, please contact Alison Oswald, Internship Coordinator, for more details.

Lemelson Center Archival Internship

The Lemelson Center Archival Internship at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, is a stipended opportunity for one graduate student working on an advanced archives, library, or museum degree. The internship focuses on collection processing and description. This internship has been suspended while the Archives Center has been temporarily relocated due to a major renovation project at the National Museum of American History. Limited space and move-related priorities have made it difficult to host a Lemelson Center Archival Intern during this two-year period and we will not host an intern for summer of 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many internships are awarded?
The number of interns fluctuates depending on the time of the year and project and staff availability. Opportunities depend on the availability of appropriate projects that align with the interests and skills of potential interns and whether staff schedules allow for mentoring an intern. Start and end dates can be negotiated.

2. How much time does the archival internship require?
Internships requires at least twenty hours per week for eight weeks. Some interns choose to devote more hours (up to forty hours per week) or stay for longer periods of time (from ten weeks to one year).

3. Are there deadlines?
Yes, there are three placement periods throughout the year:

  • Spring (January-May) Deadline: October 15th
  • Summer (June-August) Deadline: February 1st
  • Fall (September-December) Deadline: July 1st
  • Candidates seeking placement for practicum/field study experiences associated with their academic programs that do not fall within the three placement periods should contact the Archives Center internship coordinator, Alison L. Oswald.

4. What supporting application materials are required?
Applicants should submit an application and all supporting materials requested (e.g. resume, transcripts, and essay) using the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment System SOLAA.

Applying Through SOLAA (Smithsonian Online Application System) Tips:

  • Register for SOLAA at:
  • Choose Manage Applications==>Add New Application
  • Select the radio button corresponding to internship of your choice.
  • The drop down box will be populated with eligible programs. Please be sure to select the specific project for which you would like to be considered.
  • DO NOT submit your application until all necessary components are uploaded (e.g. transcripts, letters of recommendation, essay, resume).
  • Once submitted, you cannot upload or change anything within the application.
  • An unofficial or official transcript can be uploaded by first scanning the document and saving it as a .pdf or .jpg.
  • Please do not mail transcripts.
  • Make sure you click the “send e-mail” button. This triggers the system to e-mail your referees with instructions for uploading the reference letter. Please advise your reference of this in advance.

If selected, the candidate must:

  • Complete a pre-appointment Security Background Investigation . Interns cannot be accepted into the program until they complete and successfully pass this investigation. The investigation includes fingerprinting and a criminal background investigation conducted by the Office of Personnel Security at the Smithsonian.
  • Interns must furnish social security numbers and dates of birth to the Office of Personnel Security in order to obtain a security credential.
  • Selected interns must sign the National Museum of American History Social Media Policy.
  • Selected interns must complete online Computer Security Awareness Training and sign a User-Agreement Form, in order to have access to Smithsonian email and computers.

6. Who can apply?
Internships in the Archives Center are generally awarded to undergraduate and graduate students although student status is not a prerequisite. Opportunities are generally not available for high school students. A degree or expected degree in history, library science, or museum studies is preferred and archival experience, word processing, and database skills are useful. United States citizenship is not required, although nonresident citizens of other countries must apply for the appropriate U.S. visa if selected.

7. Can students earn academic credit?
Yes. Check with academic advisors about the specifics associated with each academic program. If selected, please notify us of interest in earning academic credit and we’ll complete any necessary paperwork.

8. What type of skills will I learn?
Interns assist in surveying, arranging, describing and re-housing archival collections documenting primarily 19th- and 20th-century American music, material and pop culture, business, and invention and science and technology. They may also serve as reference room assistants. This internship is a paraprofessional hands-on experience that exposes the candidate to a variety of skills and activities:

  • Understanding, identifying, arranging, describing, and categorizing archival collections;
  • Researching and interpreting archives;
  • Cataloging archival collections;
  • Creating finding aids and/or inventories to collections;
  • Building custom enclosures such as boxes, sink mats, and phase boxes;
  • Digitizing photographs and other documents and managing digital assets;
  • Assisting researchers; receiving or shelving collection materials;
  • Entering data into databases;
  • Researching, designing, and preparing small exhibits;
  • Assisting with tours of the Archives Center; and
  • Providing administrative and organizational support.

9. Are there other requirements?
Yes. If selected, interns are encouraged to attend Archives Center staff meetings to learn more about how an archives is managed; participate in scheduled enrichment programs and fieldtrips to other archival repositories; and make presentations about their work.

10. Is there a stipend?
Most Archives Center internships are unpaid volunteer positions. Some funded internships are available on a competitive basis through the Office of Fellowships and Internships.

11. Where can I find housing?
Locating housing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is challenging. If selected, the candidate should seek housing as soon as possible. For further information, visit the Office of Fellowships and Internships, 2014 D.C. Metro Area Housing Guide.

12. How can I get more information?
For more information about other internship opportuinities at the National Museum of American History contact the Internship Program.