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Student Success at the Maxwell

Maxwell Museum Blog

Student Success at the Maxwell Museum


David Phillips, Interim Director


Everyone knows about teaching hospitals, but have you ever thought about teaching museums? Museum training needs to include hands-on work. Within anthropology, archaeology and human osteology students also depend heavily on direct exposure to collections. Students in other disciplines can also pick up valuable experience at the museum—for example, the architecture students who, until they graduated, helped design and create exhibits.

 The Maxwell Museum goes out of its way to give students chances to add practical experience to their resumes. Students can work at the museum through unpaid or paid internships, scholarships with work obligations, and part-time jobs organized around class schedules. One museum unit, the Office of Contract Archeology, provides students with “real world” field and lab jobs as they complete their degrees.

In 2015 the museum started keeping statistics on the number of students involved in museum activities. Based on four semesters of data, each semester the Maxwell provides about 64 students with the chance to work with the museum’s staff and collections. Seven in ten of those students get paid for what they are doing. I’m proud of the fact that roughly half of the students who get these opportunities are undergraduates. As a college sophomore I landed a paid job in an archaeology lab, and it helped launch my professional career.

 The rewards include more than practical experience and pay. At large state universities, especially, it can be difficult to find established professionals who are willing to mentor students and help them open doors that seem hopelessly closed. Since I arrived at the Maxwell in 2003, I’ve written dozens of letters of recommendation for students who did museum work for me. If you’re reading this newsletter you’re probably already a supporter of the museum’s efforts to conserve and present New Mexico’s heritage and that of the rest of the world. If you are, you’re also helping dozens of UNM students get intensive hands-on experiences that will help propel their future careers.