This past summer, the Woody Internship in Museum Studies, administered by the Charles Center, granted eleven William and Mary students $4,000 to complete ten full-time weeks of intern and research activities alongside leading practitioners in the field. The internship, funded by alum Dr. Carol Woody '71 and her husband Robert Woody, matches applicants with various museum partners based on their interests. Museum partners include the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, as well as other museums along the East coast.
According to Dr. Woody, the internship grew out of her and her husband’s own values and appreciation for museums they have visited both nationally and internationally. They continue to be involved with the internship by setting parameters for internship options and meeting with students at different stages in their experience to make sure that their vision of allowing students to grow is being realized.
“We value the context that artifacts provide but recognize that the structure of a museum is critical to that value,” Woody wrote in an email. “It is an interest we hoped would be shared by students as a learning platform—not just the history behind an artifact but the business of selecting, assembling, displaying, and drawing people to interact with them.”
Once accepted and placed with a museum partner, students are given the opportunity to work on independent research projects based on the main priorities and practices of their respective museums. This past summer, Woody interns were also enrolled in a no-cost 3-credit summer course which allowed them to focus on how their internship experiences applied to their individual goals. All of the Woody interns took the course section taught by Professor of Art History, Environmental Humanities, and American Studies Dr. Alan Braddock.
2023 Woody intern Anna Wershbale ’24 was placed at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, and reflected on how influential her experience was in terms of the connections she made and the creative freedom she felt while working on various projects. During her time at the museum, Wershbale worked with the Learning and Outreach department, helped to create social media content and developed a family-oriented museum scavenger hunt themed after Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
“I looked at the demographics and I noticed that an area of improvement that would benefit the museum would be primarily looking at older families, or families with children ages ten to preteen or teen,” Wershbale said. “It was very engaging. We timed it with a few families, and it takes about 45 minutes to go all the way through.”
Wershbale not only developed the idea for the scavenger hunt but also created a leather-bound wooden box to act as a prototype for the activity. She also illustrated the cover and created a map of the museum themed around the idea of searching for a treasure. Each clue, written by Wershbale, leads to a different exhibit or artwork aided by the addition of sensory materials, such as fragrant soap, that hints toward the next location.
“It was a really instructive, wonderful experience that helped me realize what my passion was, and it continues to be museum work,” Wershbale said. “It made me appreciate how smaller and mid-sized museums have more opportunities to be creative and innovate models that a large institution may not have room to do.”
Fellow intern Cecilia Weaver ’24 partnered with the Colonial National Historic Park in Yorktown, Virginia. Weaver’s research primarily focused on Yorktown’s “poor potter” and the distribution of artifacts from his pottery kiln. The poor potter was an entrepreneur who hired both indentured servants and enslaved laborers to produce pottery that made its way through the American colonies.
“The goal for my research was to use archaeology reports to track down where pieces had physically been found,” Weaver said. “I was reading through all sorts of archaeology reports, speaking to various archaeologists in Virginia and beyond to get an idea of what they had found at their sites.”
With this research, Weaver was able to help run an open house at the site of the pottery kiln and shared her work, which included a Geographic Information System (GIS) map she had created of the distribution of pottery. She was also given the opportunity to spend two weeks participating in archaeological fieldwork on Jamestown Island.
Weaver mentioned that this opportunity was able to fill a void in the museum studies field that she had seen when searching for careers.
“Being able to work in a museum as a college student, if that’s a career that you’re interested in, an internship is super important as well as networking,” Weaver said. “I’m sure the connections I’ve made I will use in the future, whether that’s looking for jobs or career advice.”
Wershbale expressed a similar sentiment and mentioned that relationships with her coworkers were just as important to her experience as the tangible items she created.
“The connections that I know are going to be there for life, my friendships, people offering to let me stay in their attic when I come visit -- those are the things you can’t really quantify but are so valuable,” Wershbale said. “As I go on to work for museums and cultural institutions, I will definitely be inspired by my experiences at the Taft.”
Elizabeth Harbron, director of the Charles Center and Floyd D. Gottwald, Sr. Professor of Chemistry, attributes the program’s long-running success to several factors.
“The liberal arts & sciences training, plus the kind of close mentoring our undergraduates receive, equip them for success—whether it’s in the classroom or on the job,” Harbron said. “Clearly, the biggest single reason for the program’s success is the vision of Carol and Robert Woody, who are creating remarkable opportunities for students to go beyond their academic interests by delving into—and finding their place within—the inner workings of a world-class museum.”
Applications for the Summer 2024 Woody Internship in Museum Studies will open for interested students on Nov. 1, 2023.