barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


Intern Update

The generous donations of the Barber Association fund our popular internship programme. We love hearing what the interns enjoyed at the end of their time here. Here is the latest Intern Update:

Helen Record – 2018/19 Collections Intern 

Having recently completed my MA in Curating, I was thrilled to work in an art gallery with such a prestigious collection as the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The skills, knowledge and confidence I have gained over the past five months as Collections Intern have been invaluable in allowing me to develop in these early stages of my curatorial career.

My primary project has been curating a display of works on paper from the Barber’s collection. The sheer scope of the collection – with more than 1,000 prints and drawings produced across six centuries – meant devising a theme and selecting works presented a considerable challenge but also countless curatorial possibilities. Drawing upon the Barber’s dual identity as art gallery and concert venue, as well as my personal interest in music as a classical viola-player, I eventually settled on the theme of music in art. This resulted in the display Drawing Out The Sound: Representations of Music in Art. I noticed many of the works on paper had musical references, ranging from pastoral scenes with piping shepherds to portraits of celebrated musicians. Researching these works and artists was fascinating, teasing out subtle meanings behind the musical allusions and revealing artistic techniques that evoked the sense of sound. I thoroughly enjoyed writing interpretation for the display and was delighted to deliver two gallery talks to visitors shortly after the display opened. This project has been endlessly rewarding, allowing me to experience the many aspects of curating a collections display and igniting a desire to work more closely with works on paper in the future.

Alongside standalone projects, I have been involved with many of the ongoing processes that form part of the daily functioning of the gallery, including longer-term projects such as auditing the collection, and exhibitions administration. From managing databases to uploading information to the public website, from handling and packing works ready for transit to assisting with university seminars; no two days of my internship were alike, the variety and scope of work providing endless stimulation and opportunities for extending my knowledge and skill-set.

The intimate nature of the Barber has allowed me, an intern, to feel valued as a member of the Collections department and of the staff more widely. I never expected to have the chance to take on some of the tasks and responsibilities so early in my curatorial career, and for this I am hugely grateful. My time as Arts Society Intern at the Barber has not only provided me with skills and experiences that allow me to move with confidence to the next step of my curatorial career, but has also reaffirmed my desire to pursue a life in art galleries and museums.

Rosie Watts – 2018/19 Learning & Engagement Intern:

I have had a fantastic experience working as an intern within the learning team at the Barber. I entered this role with some experience of working with the public, children and young people but really learnt how to facilitate these interactions through the amount of hands on experience I had over my internship. I developed skills in research, workshop facilitation and delivery as well as an understanding of how to engage people of all ages with a collection.

It has been wonderful to work in such a caring and supportive environment among a team of people who have given me full control and agency over my designated projects. I have learnt valuable programming processes, while feeling that my voice and ideas were truly heard. This internship is more than just assisting and undertaking admin tasks – you really become part of a team that wants to support your ideas and give you the opportunity to leave your mark on the gallery.

Thanks to the support and experience I had, my confidence in learning and engagement has grown enormously. The Learning & Engagement team has put their trust in me, and as a result of my work during my internship I am currently project coordinating student engagement, as well as working part time as a Learning & Engagement Assistant. This internship has proved to be an invaluable opportunity to gain real, meaningful experience in gallery education and public engagement, and I have come away from it with a strong idea of what I would like to do, and how I may go about that. I feel extremely supported even after my internship has ended, and I really can’t recommend this role enough.