Laura Paloma at the Museum der Kulturen, Basel (MKB) – summer 2015

"I spent five weeks of my summer 2015 interning at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (MKB), Switzerland. The MKB has a collection of over 300,000 ethnographic objects making it the biggest and most important ethnographic museum of Switzerland. During my time at MKB, I worked in the America department and was supervised by the Curator there. I was assigned many different tasks, giving me precious insight into the diverse facets of museum work and of the daily curatorial job at the MKB. I took part in the preparation of a collaborative project between the MKB and the National University in Mexico: the scanning of the Museum’s historically most valuable objects, the Mayan Tikal lintels. I also had the chance to visit a private collection and discover the delicate interaction when working with private collectors looking to donate to the museum. My main assignment though was working on two research projects for the planning of a 2016 exhibition. My task was to contribute to the early stages and reflections on the exhibition: through research, writing an exhibition text and first thoughts on the display of the objects.

This internship was a valuable experience in concretizing all I had learnt in the museum studies and heritage courses. One understands the dynamics of a collection only when working with one. I learnt an incredible amount about exhibition planning, collection management, the work of a curator, ethnographic museums and the challenges they face. My host supervisor was critical about many aspects of his profession and the museum, allowing me to understand the dilemmas of ethnographic curating and the different approaches and ideas curators have, within the same institution. The work setting and daily interaction with MKB staff were most rewarding – including coffee breaks and lunch meetings. Talking about current exhibitions with other interns and assistants gave me vivid insight on heritage practices, not to mention all the things my host supervisor took time to explain to me. My internship at the MKB placed my academic knowledge of heritage studied at university in the world of practice, whilst giving me the opportunity to take part in the professional world of the museum."