How to Get an Internship at Colonial Williamsburg
Colonial Williamsburg Courthouse
Does Getting an Internship Really Matter?
Let's be honest - most internships these days are unpaid. Spending months working for free may not seem like the most awesome way to spend a summer or semester. However, getting an internship is a great investment in yourself and increases your chances of landing the paying job you want, or admission to a graduate program. An internship allows you to build your resume, gain valuable job experience, and make connections to people working in your intended field. In today's economy, you need every advantage possible to secure a job, so an internship can pay off in the future.
I personally know how difficult and rewarding an internship can be. The summer after my sophomore year of college, I secured an internship at a local historic site. My internship lasted for three months and I worked four days a week without pay, but still had to make rent, buy groceries, pay my bills, etc. It was a difficult summer, but at the end of my internship, the site offered me a job. I was able to work weekends during the school year and close to full time during the summers for the rest of my college career. Additionally, my internship and work experience helped me get the job I sought at Colonial Williamsburg after college graduation because I demonstrably knew how to give historical tours and interact with the public. Three months without pay turned in to years of real, paying work.
Links to Contact Departments About Internship Possibilities
How to Get an Internship at Colonial Williamsburg
Many people assume that William and Mary students have an advantage when seeking an internship and Colonial Williamsburg because the college is located literally across the street for the Colonial Williamsburg historic area. Many people also assume that a majority of Colonial Williamsburg employees are also William and Mary students. While attending William and Mary might help you get an internship during a regular school semester because you live locally, summer internship programs are not restricted to William and Mary students. Even during regular semesters, exchange students to William and Mary are welcome to intern at Colonial Williamsburg. My department had a public history intern who was only spending that semester at the school.
The most active internship program at Colonial Williamsburg is run by the archeology department. Each summer, graduate and undergraduate students do extensive field work and focus on African American archeology, environmental archeology, collections management, or conservation. If you are studying anthropology or archeology, a summer at Colonial Williamsburg is a fantastic resume builder and a great way to improve chances of receiving a job or admission to the graduate school of your choice.
Other departments do offer internships, but they do not run the same type of formalized, regular programs. If you want to get an internship at another department, such as Public Sites (the Courthouse, Gaol, and Capitol), Foodways, Domestic Sites, or African American Sites, you may need to contact a department supervisor. To find out who to contact, visit the "Contact Us" section of the Colonial Williamsburg research website and choose your area of interest. You can choose from Architectural and Archaeological Research, Training and Historical Research, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, and Digital History Center.
Because you can choose from front-line interpretation positions, like the intern in my former department, or behind-the-scenes preservation and research positions, an internship at Colonial Williamsburg is a good match for many different majors. History, public history (history that specializes in museums and communicating historical knowledge to the public), art history, historic preservation, anthropology, and even communications are relevant to the work done at Colonial Williamsburg.
Before contacting a department to inquire about creating an internship, write a current curriculum vitae. Abbreviated CV, this document is used in academia instead of a resume. A CV includes information about your relevant life and work experiences, as well as some information about yourself. If you are unfamiliar with how to write a CV, you can learn from the Purdue OWL guide.
Want to Visit Before Seeking an Internship?
Fellowships at Colonial Williamsburg
For more advanced research, Colonial Williamsburg offers several fellowships. There are currently four separate residential, short-term fellowships available. All are based out of the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, which is noted for its collection of primary and secondary sources on 18th century Williamsburg and Virginia, as well as early American decorative arts through 1830. Applicants must provide a succinct description of their proposed research, a curriculum vitae, and three letters of recommendation. Applicants who are selected receive a stipend of $2000 a month, as well as the prestige of earning a Fellowship at such a renowned institution.
Make Your Internship Count
Internships at Colonial Williamsburg
In summary, the only formalized internship program at Colonial Williamsburg is offered at the graduate and undergraduate levels by the archeology department. Research fellowships are also available through the John D. Rockefeller Library, but are highly competitive and you must be a highly-qualified researcher to earn one of these fellowships. Other internships are available with basically every department, but you have to do the leg work and contact department heads to discuss a possible internship. This extra work to create your own internship program offers you even more opportunities to show your initiative and build your resume.
While working without pay may not seem immediately beneficial, an internship can give you the edge you need to move into your intended career field or attend graduate school. Just think of the internship as a three or four month investment in yourself!