The Columns

Interns at Work: Sarah Wagner ’17 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

— by on September 5th, 2016

Sarah Wagner '17

“This internship gave me the validation that I needed going into senior year that I was on the right track and could end up at a job I love.”

What attracted you to this internship?

When I went in for my interview, I was told about all of the different jobs I would have over the summer and left feeling really excited about the opportunity. In my department, I get to work on a variety of tasks, and what I do is actually being used by the museum, so I feel like the work I do matters. Also, since I am an art history and business administration double major, getting to do PR at a museum is like a dream come true.

How did you learn about it?

I knew I wanted to work in an art setting, so when I was looking into internships I looked at major museums in the U.S. because I assumed they would have established internship programs. After creating a list of programs I was interested in, I did some more research and ended up creating a finalized list of programs I was interested in.

What gave you an edge in landing this internship?

Honestly I give a lot of credit to both Professor Bower’s AdClass and working for wluLex. In AdClass, I was one of two people in charge of social media and with wluLex I’ve gotten real experience doing social media on behalf of an institution. I think this definitely gave me an edge when applying because I already had relevant experience. Also being both an art history and business administration I think helped. This job really lets me combine my knowledge from both majors. Since everything I do in terms of PR relates back to art, having knowledge in both areas has been really beneficial.

Describe your daily duties.

Everyday is a little different. We always start by clipping all the articles written about the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) that day and putting them in folders based on the area of the museum the article covered. After that, it depends on the day. Some days I put together press kits or write press releases, while on other days I draft social media posts, do wrap-ups on closed exhibitions, create contacts sheets (basically a sheet containing all the available images for an exhibition with full credit lines so that journalist know what they can use and how to properly credit it), create social previews of all the social posts happening in the next week, sit in on strategy meetings or walk around the museum creating storyboards for upcoming Snapchat stories. What is so great about my job is that everyday is a little bit different, and I like the variety of jobs I have!

What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?

There are two upcoming exhibitions that I drafted social media posts for, which was a lot of work since these exhibitions run 16 weeks to six months respectively. I’ve also helped build lists of journalists, book reviewers, etc. for the MFA to pitch material to. I’ve played some part in a lot of different projects, such as creating the wrap-up for a closed exhibition or internal Q&A for upcoming exhibitions, so the list goes on and on. There are a lot of different parts involved in the PR for an exhibition and the general day-to-day work of such a large museum, so when I work on individual smaller projects, such as a Q&A, it becomes part of the material for the exhibition.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

Classes at W&L definitely helped prepare me for this internship! Because the MFA is an encyclopedic museum, which means that have art from every period of art history, every art history class I’ve taken has been beneficial. There have times that I have been asked to find paintings that have a certain theme, animal or type of food (like fruit), and being able to think about all the different periods of art usually helps me find what the MFA is looking for fairly easily. I also think Professor Bower’s AdClass really helped prepare me. It gave me a chance to learn more about managing social media on a large scale and in a holistic manner before I started this internship. Lastly, I took Dean Straughan’s Marketing Management class, which provided me with a lot of helpful background knowledge.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

I’ve learned a lot this summer. While I already do social media for wluLex, it was interesting to learn how the MFA does it. At wluLex we post what we want without anyone looking over it first (with the exception of Tumblrs), but at the MFA we plan social postings months in advance. Everything is extremely organized and well planned and it has given me a chance to see what it’s like working for a large institution with thousands of followers on social media. Additionally, I have been able to write a few press releases, pitch a small event to journalists and work to organize social posts for upcoming exhibitions. I had never done anything involving press releases or pitching before, and planning social posts months in advance was also definitely a learning experience. A lot has happened at the museum since I started. I’ve been there for exhibition closings and openings and through social phenomena (there are about 15 PokéStops and a Gym in the MFA), so now I’m just trying to take it all in and absorb as much of this experience as possible.

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

I think seeing posts I wrote on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat was definitely a highlight. Also having free admission to the MFA and being able to walk around and look at famous works of art during my lunch breaks was incredible. However, the best part of my internship happened after the launch of Pokémon Go. The Monday following the launch, the PR department realized how many PokéStops there are in the museum and that the game would be attracting visitors no matter what, so they might as well embrace it. That morning I walked around the museum before it opened with three PR employees catching Pokémon and figuring out how the app worked. With every Pokémon spotted we took pictures on our phones so that we could use the content on social media, and now I have a picture on my phone of a Pidgey sitting in front of Paul Gauguin’s “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

What did you learn from living in the city where the internship was located?

I didn’t really know Boston before this summer and just fell in love with it. Boston tends to feel more like a town. It isn’t very crowded (unless you’re at Fenway or on Newbury St.), and it is very walkable. I loved being somewhere that, like Lexington, has so much history, and because I worked for the MFA I was able to go to (almost) all cultural sights in and around the city for free. I definitely tried to take advantage of that and visit places like the Boston Museum of Science and the New England Aquarium whenever I could.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

There are definitely key skills and takeaways I will be bringing back to W&L. One of them is having a greater sense of how to create a holistic campaign that has to last for months. While I won’t have to create long campaigns at school, having this knowledge will help me think better about creating campaigns as a whole and how all the pieces fit together. Additionally, having a better understanding as to how many moving parts there are at a large institution, like the MFA and W&L, will help me think about situations in a larger context. Instead of pigeon-holing myself and thinking about a situation from only one standpoint, I will better understand how to think about all the moving parts involved.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

Get involved and take advantage of what W&L has to offer! When I came to W&L I never would have dreamed that I would find myself on this career path. I knew I wanted to do art history, but business kind of came out of left field. I knew nothing about marketing when I started, but through my involvement with organizations like FYOC, wluLex and others I was able to learn about different aspects of marketing and gain skills that helped me get this job. Also, having a background both in marketing/PR and art history has definitely made me feel more confident at my job. I would encourage business majors interested in working in the art field to at least take both art history survey classes (101 and 102) and art history majors to take some of the intro business classes. Having a background in both of these areas isn’t necessary for what I do, but I think it helps and can give you an edge.

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

Definitely! I came into this internship thinking I wanted to do PR in the art world, and after this summer I know that’s true. This internship gave me the validation that I needed going into senior year that I was on the right track and could end up at a job I love.

Describe your experience in a single word.

Incredible.

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