Yale Peabody Museum Summer Internship

Managing a Teaching Collection: Education

Advisors: Nicole Palffy-Muhoray (Assistant Director, YPM Student Programs) and Erin Gredell (Registrar, YPM)


Length: 6-7 weeks in May and June


Project Description:

Teaching collections serve as a primary resource for object-based education, exhibitions, and outreach. These collections often differ from research collections in important ways: they tend to be more diverse in content than research collections, which are often taxonomically delimited; and they typically have more relaxed conservation/care requirements, allowing for a greater range of possible uses. This greater diversity of content and broader range of uses means increased access, frequency of use, and thereby risk. Thus there is likewise an elevated need for careful and efficient curation, management, conservation, and care of teaching collections. 


The primary teaching collection at the Peabody Museum is the Education collection, which comprises an estimated 10,000 objects of great diversity, including: rocks, minerals, vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant fossils; modern invertebrate and vertebrate specimens; and archival and anthropological materials. These items are in regular use for widely varied purposes, including teaching by Peabody staff, models for the Natural Science Illustration Program and other art courses, for demonstrations and outreach by the Peabody SciCorps program, for study in Yale courses, for display in exhibitions and at events, and more.


As part of the Peabody’s upcoming renovation, the Education collection will be moved to a temporary home at West Campus for 3 years, beginning in July 2020. In order to begin this move, the collection, which is now housed in a lower level storage room in the Peabody Museum, will first need to undergo extensive preparation. This process will include evaluation of its standards of organization and conservation with both the upcoming transitional period and future uses in mind, development of a plan for upgrading the organization, conservation, and storage as needed to facilitate the move, and execution of said plan.


The Peabody is offering a unique opportunity for a dedicated undergraduate with an interest in collections management, natural history, and education to gain first-hand experience in collections management. There is no classroom equivalent for having physical responsibility for a collection of objects that is in need of care, and the skills and knowledge developed through this internship will serve any student interested in museums well in future circumstances. As part of this internship, the student will learn proper health assessment of a collection, handling and conservation best practices, curation methods, basic taxonomy (at the Class and Order levels for biological specimens), and museum digitization, security, and access procedures. Based on these skills, the student will apply high standards of curation and conservation methods to the estimated 10,000 Education collection objects in preparation for the collection’s move, and will develop best practices and policies for future access, curation, conservation, and use that will allow for the collection’s continued care while taking into consideration the needs of its users.


For the duration of the internship, the student will work closely with the internship advisors (the Assistant Director of Student Programs and the Registrar). The first week of the internship will be spent in a literature review of collections care practices and intensive research into the history and current condition of the Education collection through interviews with staff and examination of the collection. Week 2 will be spent developing a standard of care, storage, and curation that will allow for safe, organized movement of the collection to West Campus and access during the renovation period (3 years), and working with staff to revise and come to agreement on these standards. In week 4, the intern will develop a plan for how to achieve these standards over the course of the summer, and in weeks 5 through the end of the internship, the student will execute their plan.


The Education collection will begin moving to West Campus in early July, 2020. As a result, the internship should be 6 or 7 weeks in length, between the end of final exams (May 6) and the end of June.  


Stipend: $2250-2625