Fernanda Valenzuela seems to have a special skill when it comes to internships. The recent Museum Studies graduate has been accepted into the highly competitive internship at the J. Paul Getty Museum registrar’s office in Los Angeles. She begins there in September after finishing at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As a student, she completed an internship in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She also interned at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley, and the Museo de Arte de Sonora, Mexico.
At the Getty, Valenzuela will be charged with providing a broad overview of the museum’s collections and exhibitions and the chance to interact with the curatorial, conservation, preparations and exhibition staff. She will learn about acquisition policies and procedures, collections management, exhibition planning and installation, fine art shipping, insurance, rights and reproductions. She will also receive training on specific projects and general best practices.
Valenzuela (M.A., ’18) moved to San Francisco three years ago from Hermosillo, Mexico, to study for a master’s degree, supported by a scholarship from her country’s government.
“Fernanda has been absolutely wonderful to have in the Museum Studies Program: conscientious, thoughtful and hard-working,” Museum Studies Professor and Director Edward M. Luby says. “She was strategic, focused and took advantage of every opportunity that she was offered in the program to support her development as an emerging museum professional. These post-graduate internship opportunities are among the most competitive in the museum world and will surely support a rewarding career as a museum professional.”
Her degree focused on museum registration and collections management, with an intention of broadening her experience in working with art collections. “The courses that I took during my studies at SFSU allowed me to have direct contact with outstanding professionals, from diverse areas in the museum field,” Valenzuela says.
Obtaining practical experience in an educational environment was instrumental to landing the internships, Valenzuela adds.
“By being enrolled in the project management on collections course, I was able to do museum staff work with the Treganza Collection of the Global Museum of SFSU, which contains objects from different regions of the world made up of a variety of materials, thereby presenting diverse and edifying museum challenges,” she says. “Moreover, as a student of the collections management and registration course, I had the chance to work directly with the “Sutro Egyptian Collection” which is housed at SF State.
Her studies and internships have helped to nurture her passion for “working with collections and a curiosity for the logistics behind museum exhibits,” Valenzuela says. Obtaining practical experiences from internships has been an invaluable tool to Valenzuela’s aspirations for a career in museum registration.
Advice for students seeking internships
As an international student, some museums “support selected interns without restrictions on nationality by helping out with the necessary hiring paperwork and paying interns a stipend during the internship,” Valenzuela says.
She recommends students to “find a specific area of their field that they are passionate about, and try to focus on gaining experiences and learning from professionals relevant to the student’s interests,” she says. “Do not turn down opportunities, but be selective within your capacity, in order to be able to gain as much experience as possible.”
She also emphasizes the need to gain more experience at institutions with diverse sizes, as it gives the emerging professional a better understanding of different approaches and processes.
— Ufuoma Umusu
Photo: Fernanda Valenzuela at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo courtesy of Fernanda Valenzuela.