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Desired Majors and Areas of Study: African American Studies, English, History, Humanities, Anthropology, Museum Studies; Interest or background in African American history and cultural studies; Interest in relationship between memory, the oral tradition and historical interpretation; Prior experience in oral history is not required

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is dedicated to documenting and celebrating African American history and culture. Located in Washington, DC we are the only national museum that tells the American story through the African American lens. The museum amplifies voices too often marginalized or silenced—and uplifts the African American experience of hope and resiliency, of struggle and pain, of triumph and joy. One of the Museum’s most powerful tools for giving voice to the African American experience is our Oral History Initiative, which is dedicated to documenting, interpreting, and preserving the African American experience through the medium of oral history. 

The Oral History Intern will support the Oral History Initiative (located in the Office of Digital Strategies and Engagement) at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) by working on the processing of oral history interviews for our ongoing projects, including the Social Justice Conversations Oral History Project. The Oral History Initiative team is a highly collaborative, team-oriented group focused on collecting oral history content for use by Museum staff, scholars and the general public. The applicant should have strong oral and written communication skills and be able to work well in both group settings and on his or her own.

The intern can anticipate learning the process of collecting oral histories from inception to actual accession of oral history interview; how to write a justification and bring an item into the museum’s collection; becoming familiar writing field notes and summaries of oral history interviews; becoming familiar with the process of recording oral histories via film; becoming familiar with ethical standards of collecting oral histories as upheld by the Oral History Association; experiencing different ways of integrating oral history content into exhibitions and programming.

This internship is designed to provide an introduction to professional oral history work in a museum setting, and the intern will develop their verbal, written, and professional skills. Each assigned duty will help with the development of skills needed to succeed in a museum setting. The coordinator of the Oral History initiative will mentor the intern maintaining records, conducting background research for interviews, completing required documentation. The Oral History Intern will also be able to observe how oral history projects are carried out from conception to implementation, including research, developing questions, contacting interviewees, gathering metadata, and writing field notes and interview descriptions. Finally, the intern will be able to participate in the planning and implementation of an oral history symposium to be held at NMAAHC in the fall.

Duties shall include:

  • Attending mandatory training
  • Preparing background research
  • Writing justifications for Collections Committee
  • Collecting oral history documentation forms
  • Writing summary of interviews
  • Observing oral history interviews
  • Supporting planning and implementation of public program