THE INDUSTRY IN LONDON
To refer to London as a historical and cultural destination is an understatement. London’s 2000-year history – and nearly a thousand of those as a center of government – have left traces of the development of art and civilization on nearly every street corner. As a center of a trade, and later as a capital of a global empire, London has also absorbed artifacts, traditions, and influence from many other cultures. Even such a stereotypical British institution as tea has “only” been in London for about 400 years.
London is home to some of the world oldest, largest and most comprehensive museums in the world. The Tower of London first began hosting paying visitors in 1592, and since opening in 1759 the British Museum has collected more than seven million objects from all continents and historical ages.
The city has also made a commitment to supporting diverse and equal access to museums, and since 2001 all national museums have offered free entry (though certain special exhibits may have an entry fee). On FIE’s own Kensington Campus, the V&A, Natural History, and Science museums attract more visitors than the entire city of Venice! The V&A, in particular, has from its inception been designed to be accessible to everyone by incorporating the first museum restaurant and electric lighting in its galleries, enabling the working class to visit after work.
Various ethnic and cultural communities have come and gone, and still today in certain pockets of London you are more likely to hear locals speaking Arabic, Turkish, Bengali, Urdu or Polish than English. Taken together, London’s rich past and present make it an exciting place to explore history and culture.
|Although students are understandably attracted to working in large museums, placements in “brand-name” cultural centers (such as the V&A, British Museum, Tate Gallery or Imperial War Museum) are typically not possible as these organizations run their own closed, competitive internship programs which are not compatible or possible with a placement through FIE. Strict union rules further limit opportunities. Additionally, many organizations put a heavy emphasis on providing an opportunity for local (rather than overseas) students. Learn more here.
Students who choose Historical & Cultural Organizations may be placed in any of the opportunities below. If a particular sub-area catches your eye, let us know on your MyInternship form.
Community Art Organizations
Many local communities invest time and money into resources for local people to experience and participate in the arts, from theater and music to visual arts and new forms of media and experiential art. These organizations can offer opportunities for professional and non-professional artists to gain experience, new and fringe artists to gain exposure, or simply a place for residents to gather in a stimulating cultural center. As a community-focused organization, they may also provide facilities for fundraising, training, education or open gallery or rehearsal space. Interns may have opportunities to assist with a variety of these projects, as well as engage in communications, administrative and support tasks. An intern in a community arts organization not only gets to experience London’s relationship with the arts but also help make the arts more accessible to all of London’s residents.
Visual Arts & Galleries
London is home to an exciting mix of both for-profit and community galleries. Potential internship opportunities include small, independent galleries; art and talent agencies; organizations supporting local artists; creative event planning; and promotion organizations. Some may have a focus on a particular time period, style or medium. Tasks can include liaising with customers, visitors, and artists; assisting with events; hands-on gallery maintenance including installation, hanging, packing, labeling, painting and cleaning; marketing and PR work; research; maintaining the database; and administrative duties.
Limited opportunities are available in small art and history museums throughout London. To be considered for these opportunities, students typically need to have previous experience in the industry as well as an academic background relevant to the museum’s work. Potential tasks may include preparing and maintaining collections and exhibitions, archiving, research, event planning, marketing, educational programs, and the day-to-day administrative operations of the museum. Although students are not typically involved in curating exhibitions or developing major projects, the experience gained through an internship as a small museum will help a student understand the field as a whole.
Ethnic, Racial & Religious Diversity Organizations
London continues to develop as a cultural center, with many community organizations supporting groups of a particular religion, heritage, language or ethnic background. As these populations came to London to seek opportunity, they are often poorer or immigrants, so along with cultural connection, these centers provide language training and legal, immigration or housing advice. Tasks will be varied and tailored to the organization’s particular niche, but examples include promotional and awareness-raising work, working with users, research and providing users with advice, assisting with workshops or education projects, and general operations or administrative duties. Language skills are often required, but a personal affinity with the organization’s diversity focus is not. An internship in a diversity organization provides students with a great opportunity to learn about current issues and themes in London’s modern cultural scene.
REALITIES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
While the historical and cultural sector in London is extensive, and there are a range of internship opportunities available, please be aware internship positions are typically allocated in organizations within an administrative and assistant capacity. Interns are unlikely to be directly involved in curating exhibitions or developing major projects. Similarly, interns are unlikely to be working hands-on with art or artifacts. An internship in a historical and cultural organization will offer students an opportunity to understand the sector as a whole as well as the inner workings of their particular placement.
Although students are understandably attracted to working in large museums, placements in “brand-name” cultural centers – such as the British Museum, Tate Gallery or Imperial War Museum – are typically not possible as these organizations run their own closed, competitive internship programs which are not compatible or possible with a placement through FIE. Strict union rules further limit opportunities. Additionally, many organizations put a heavy emphasis on providing the opportunity for local (rather than overseas) students. Working with a small- or medium-sized company or organization means that committed and productive interns can have a greater impact during the short duration of the placement, getting more involved and seeing more immediately the effects of their work.
- Knowledge of the specific area of historical and cultural interest
- Belief in the importance of arts and culture and a commitment to the field
- Good communication skills
- Flexibility and willingness to work in a variety of capacities – including the unglamorous ones!
- Proficiency in at least one language other than English
Relevant academic majors include History, Anthropology, any cultural or region-specific major (for example, Middle Eastern Studies), Art History, Visual Arts, Studio Arts, Sociology, and Community Development.
TIPS AND TRICKS: SHOWING YOU'RE A STRONG CANDIDATE
- Students seeking a placement in a museum, gallery, or cultural center can strengthen their application by detailing on their CV and MyInternship form any topics or areas in which the student has particular experience (for example, Latin America, the history of medicine, or photography). However, please note that restricting your interest to certain themes may limit potential opportunities.
- Many roles in this field involve working with the public, including customers, clients, visitors, or education groups, so it is important to highlight on your CV any relevant experience, including customer service or working with children.
- Language skills are required for certain placements and desirable for others. List any language skills and your level of proficiency on your CV.