The Curatorship Program Practicum Experience
Selecting Your Practicum or Capstone Experience
You may complete your practicum (6 credits, total) and capstone (3 credits, normally earned in your final term) in any of IU Bloomington’s 50-plus collections. (On approval of the Curatorship director, you may also choose to earn these credits through work in a non-campus collection.)
Each semester, Curatorship provides its students with a summary of practicum opportunities available for the upcoming term in IUB campus collections. Most of these positions are competitive—more students will want to sign up than can be placed. It is up to you to follow whatever application requirements and deadlines that particular workplace has instituted for selecting its interns in the coming semester. You may wish to target more than one possibility, in the event that you don’t receive your first choice. You may also seek out opportunities—or collections—not on our current list.
As a rule, look for positions that 1) give you experience in a collection or subject area that interests you, and 2) provide a particular kind of work experience (eg research, cataloguing, conservation, etc.) that you will find useful in your professional life. You may work more than one semester in a particular position (or you may return to a different position within the same collection), or you may choose to vary your workplace from one term to the next.
For more specific information about your capstone experience, see below.
Working with Your Professional and Academic Supervisors
Two people will oversee and assess your Curatorship practicums and capstone: a workplace supervisor and a faculty advisor.
Your supervisor works with you to ensure that you gain useful professional training while serving the needs of a collection. Your faculty advisor determines what—if any—additional educational components (such as outside readings or a written assignment) are required to translate your work to academic credit.
At the beginning of the semester, your supervisor and your faculty advisor will join you in signing a practicum/capstone contract. This brief agreement details everyone’s expectations for the semester and reflects your mutual understanding of the terms of your work arrangement. The contract also specifies how often you will meet with each of your mentors during the course of the semester.
At the end of the term, your advisor will determine your grade, based on feedback received from you and your workplace supervisor.
To seek a practicum/capstone faculty advisor, begin by asking if the person overseeing your workplace experience is a member of IU’s graduate faculty. If so, then this person can serve both roles—overseeing your work in the collection, as well as determining your academic performance. If they are not, then your supervisor, your academic advisor, or the Curatorship faculty director can help you to locate an IU faculty member (who may or may not be affiliated with the Curatorship program) in the department in which you plan to enroll for course credit.
Faculty advisors will determine your grade based on (at a minimum):
- Input from your workplace supervisor
- 3-5 page paper
- Adherence to meeting schedule (at least twice/semester)
- Formal presentation of work (may only apply to capstone)
Once you have selected (and been selected for) a practicum or capstone and you have received a copy of the approved practicum or capstone contract via email, your next step is to enroll in an appropriate course to gain academic credit for your work. Generally speaking, each department maintains a course number for graduate practicum or independent research classes (e.g. HIST- H 575, ANTH-A, 595, FOLK-F, 800). Once you have selected a faculty advisor (see above), then you will ask the graduate secretary in that supervisor’s home department for information about enrolling in the appropriate class. You may also enroll in the University Graduate School’s GRAD 688 for practicum experiences that don’t fit obviously into a particular department.
Your Work Experience
Every practicum is unique, and each reflects the combination of your interests and the particular needs of a collection. However, two general qualities unite them:
Hands-On Experience: Your practicum will bring you into direct contact with a collection—its objects, catalogue, programs, staff and patrons. Working an average of 9-10 hours weekly, or 135 hours across the length of a term (for a 3-unit practicum), you will gain experience in some aspect of the activities that together comprise curation—collection, cataloguing and registration, research, interpretation, conservation, display, and so on.
Professional and Intellectual Mentorship: As mentioned above, an experienced professional—a curator, archivist, exhibition designer, educator, or other collections specialist—will train you and oversee your work in the skills necessary to succeed in your practicum. Additionally, your designated faculty advisor will meet with you no less than twice during the semester, and may assign additional reading or writing activities to help you relate your professional and scholarly work to one another.
Your capstone experience is a practicum with a unique outcome: an original project, based on original work carried out in your selected collection. This project, the equivalent of an article-length research project, may take conventional written form, or may instead be realized as an exhibition, public program series, collection initiative, online finding aid, or other substantial work. You will determine your capstone project in advance through discussion with your selected workplace supervisor and faculty advisor. Once completed, the capstone is presented publicly before a faculty review committee.
Student Rights & Responsibilities
In addition to the IU Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct, the Curatorship Program extends the following rights and responsibilities to its students.
As a Curatorship Program student, you have the right to:
- Engage in challenging and meaningful work experiences;
- Be treated with respect and dignity;
- Ask questions;
- Present your point of view;
- Receive active feedback and training in a timely manner.
- As a Curatorship Program student, you have the responsibility to:
- Act professionally whenever working in or representing a collection;
- Communicate changes or concerns appropriately;
- Accept criticism;
- Participate in trainings required for the work;
- Inform your supervisor of other commitments or issues that might affect your ability to carry out your assigned responsibilities;
- Present your work to your peers and faculty chair at the end of the term of enrollment.
Curatorship Program Contract
Please submit the Curatorship Program contract at least two weeks before registering for practicum credits.