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December 4, 2023
Qi Liu before Daily Digs

Qi Liu ('24), an Anthropology and History of Art double major, was an intern at the Exhibits Department of Penn Musuem this past summer through the Summer Humanities Internship Program.

As an anthropology student and the previous student exhibition curator, I’ve spent quite a bit of time here (Penn Museum), and curatorial work has always been one of my career interests. I wanted to experience the Penn Museum as an insider to witness the day-to-day running of the place, as well as gain more hands-on experience as a curator.

My internship was great in terms of both its breadth and depth. Thanks to the all-staff meetings and weekly seminars, I was able to grasp a big picture understanding of the current museum world, like the trends and issues. I also did a lot of in-depth curatorial work such as exhibit research and visitor surveys. Museum work became a more concrete idea, and I feel more informed about my future career paths.

Qi working "behind the scenes"

The best thing this summer is that I got to meet so many cool people! I had great fun with everyone else in the Exhibits Department, and hanging out with them was both interesting and eye-opening. I learned about things like mount-making, budgeting, case design, etc., that I didn’t expect. Outside my home department, the Penn Museum is filled with extraordinary people, and it’s so easy to grab coffee with them and chat about something that I’d like to further learn about. I wasn’t interning in the Conservation Department, but the staff there were incredibly supportive once they learned about my interest in the area. I also had a great time with my fellow interns (we watched Barbie together). Aside from building connections, I feel that the best thing about having these conversations was that they soothed a lot of my anxiety. I’ve realized that there are many options available, and there’s no such thing as a “wrong path.” A lot of people that I talked to were in similar situations as me, and it greatly helped with my pre-senior year existential crisis.

Qi presenting to a Musuem audience

I wasn’t into public outreach previously. As an introverted person, I’ve always been more into the behind-the-curtain jobs like research and exhibits curation; talking to people was (I thought) neither my advantage nor my interest. This summer, through doing Daily Digs and visitor surveys, I became better at this. I also realized that the so-called “behind the curtain” jobs shouldn’t be like that anymore; it’s only through raising public awareness and increasing transparency of museum work that we can better protect the material heritage and serve our communities. Through talking to people, there will be less misunderstandings and more room for meaningful work in museums. This is a new path that I would consider and further pursue in my future career.

Interested in reading more first-hand accounts about undergraduate research? Check out the other experiences featured on our Student News Page and Social Media!

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