Intern Spotlight: Laura McNeil @ The Phillips Collection

Laura McNeil, center in black and white.

Editors Note – A big congratulations to our next featured intern Laura McNeil for just completing her comprehensive exams this past Saturday! Though we’re all excited to see Laura graduate we’ll miss her dearly!

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Laura McNeil and I am finishing up my final semester as a masters student in art
history at George Mason.

How did you come to be an intern at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.?:

During the summer of 2012, I was the Graduate Intern for Programs and Lectures within the
Museum Education department at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.. It was an amazing
opportunity to directly apply my background and knowledge of art history to the museum field.
The Phillips Collection is a small and close knit institution, so the application process was
pretty straightforward. It involved a resume, references, an interview, and a short presentation
demonstrating my ability to speak about the collection easily with visitors.

What are/were your responsibilities as an intern?:

My responsibilities as an intern emphasized adult education. I was involved with the planning
and execution of all adult programs and lectures on a weekly basis and assisted with the
organization of the Phillips Collection’s popular monthly after-hours event, “Phillips After 5.”
Additionally, I was required to familiarize myself with the history of the institution, the artworks
of the permanent collection, and the artworks of the temporary exhibitions with the intent of
eventually leading public and private tours throughout the museum. For me, hosting these tours
was one of the highlights of the internship as it gave me the opportunity to interact directly with
art enthusiasts and museum goers alike. Upon finishing my internship I was offered a position
with the Phillips Collection to stay on as a Gallery Educator, which has allowed me to continue
enjoying my work as a docent of the collection.

What surprised you about the experience?:

I guess I was most surprised by the diversity of the collection. The Phillips Collection is
attributed with being the first Modern Art gallery in the US (opening in 1921) and the collection
reflects the extremely eclectic taste of the benefactor, Duncan Phillips. One might find a work
by an old master, such as Goya, hanging beside the more modern works of Matisse and Picasso.
Also, the works were constantly being moved around. This can be refreshing to visitors who
want to see something different on every visit, but I found it funny when every time I went to
work, I had to re-familiarize myself with where everything was!

What are your future plans?:

My future is still uncertain, but while I am searching for an art related position that best suits my
interests, I will continue my work as a Gallery Educator with the Phillips.

What advice would you give to other students looking for an internship?:

This may seem obvious, but when I went into my interview with the Phillips, the interviewer
mentioned that I was one of the few applicants who tailored my cover letter specifically to the Phillips Collection position. If I were to give any advice, I would say to avoid a standardized cover letter, do research on the institution first and use it when you express your interest in the position. This will make you stand out, which is what they are looking for.


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