What it does: Provides cultural and scientific resources. Preserving history.
Mission: The increase and diffusion of knowledge.
Size and presence: 6.375 employees.
Best known for: The biggest cluster of museums in America
The good bits: Exciting project and task. Interesting working environment. Great deal benefit packages.
The not-so-good bits: Slow career advancement and long bureaucracy.
The Smithsonian Institution was founded on 10 August 1846 by an act of Congress, and it was founded as an independent federal trust instrumentality. However, the founding of the Smithsonian was dated long before 1846, preceded by several establishments of other institutions. The first one was the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Art and Science and followed by the National Institution. Both of the institutions operate for years on a different timeline, carrying on their mission and initiatives before they press Congress to finally establish a museum now known as the Smithsonian.
After its establishment, the Smithsonian became a magnet for young scientists in 1857-1866, especially since the first secretary, Joseph Henry, wanted to make Smithsonian a centre for scientific research. It did manage to do its mission when The United States Exploring Expedition sailed across the globe between 1838-1842 collecting thousand of specimens and ethnographic artifacts which later became Smithsonian collections.
Smithsonian’s first building was built in Washington D.C. in 1849 and is widely known as ‘The Castle’. Afterwards, it expanded with the construction of the Art and Industries Building in 1881, and later in 1889, the National Zoological Park was opened to the public. Throughout the years it operates, Smithsonian build other museum buildings in its complex in Washington D.C.
As of recent development, The Smithsonian Institution owns 19 museums, 21 libraries, and 9 research centres, and possesses 154 million items in its collection. It generates millions of visitors annually.
Some employees said that it’s never boring to work at the Smithsonian since the institution’s mission revolved around catering to people to get wider access and deeper experience about knowledge in general. There’s always something new and exciting to learn. Others said that it feels rewarding and fulfilling to work in the institution. You will work with dedicated people to do a specifically dedicated project. However, as a public space that opens to servicing a lot of visitors, there will be a seasonal packed schedule, especially for those who work in the museum.
The procurement process at Smithsonian is quite complex, as expected from a national institution. Therefore, many positions in the institution are civil service, in which the employee is considered to be a federal employee. However, Smithsonian also opens trust fund positions, which are not part of the civil service. Every position and eligibility requirements for them will be explained in each vacant position’s information you will find on Smithsonian’s website. The institution has its own procurement system, which is STARS (Smithsonian Tracking and Applicant Referral System) which can be accessed in USAJOBS.
In the online application, you will be asked to submit your resume and any other supporting documents, and then the STARS will lead you to answer several questions in various formats to determine your basic qualification. Afterwards, STARTS will take you to the USAJOBS. If you are shortlisted, then you will be notified to proceed to the next step, which consists of several rounds of interviews with the HR and the hiring managers.
The internship application process is roughly the same as a regular job application. Students will find any information they needed on its websites. Smithsonian has a ton of internships program, almost every museum under the institution are offering internship programs for different roles. The application would be done online through the Smithsonian Online Academic Appointment System (SOLAA). The institution urged students to carefully read the requirement and the timeline since each internship will have a different requirement and hiring timeline.
There are a lot of opportunities at the Smithsonian Institution. It is safe to say that the institute has a wide range of departments for students to spend their internships and for graduates to start off their careers. It is a great place to work not only for those who are interested in history in general but also for graduates of art, science, business, or social studies. There will be many roles in the museums you may want to consider. Curator, art conservator, retail sales, exhibit specialist, and program facilitator are probably the most notable roles in the museum. However, there are other promising opportunities as a biologist, astrophysicist, archivist, research scientist, writer or editor, marketing, business development, public affairs, geologist, horticulturist, and many more, since the institution works mostly for educational, reservation, and cultural purpose.
Smithsonian pays interns ranging from $2.000 up to $5.000 per month. A research intern may receive up to $4.000 monthly, a greenhouse and interior plant production intern receives $2.000, an exhibit design intern receives $4.000, a curatorial intern receives $3.000, and a software engineer intern may receive $5.000 per month.
Salaries for a full-time position and permanent employees are higher. However, the salary for each employee may be different depending on their status, whether they’re working as a civil service employee or a trust fund employee. A museum specialist earns $69.000, a curator earns $90.000, a program assistant earns $47.000, a research assistant earns $65.000, an IT specialist earns $99.000, a conservator earns $79.000, an administrative assistant earns $54.000, and a public affair specialist earns $76.000 annually.
The presence of Smithsonian Museums alone creates a great impact on education and culture. Aside from it, Smithsonian is also committed to valuing and respecting diversity in its workforce. However, it doesn’t stop the museum to contribute, using a targeted initiative to uplift the community. The museum has Supplier Diversity Program that provides advocacy and direction to small businesses and historically underutilized small businesses. The program aimed to ensure these business units receive an equal opportunity and appropriate consideration in the Smithsonian’s procurement of goods and services.
In July 2020, Smithsonian Museum released an apology regarding a cultural trait chart list of ‘whiteness’, it was written on the list that ‘hard work is the key to success and ‘objective, rational linear thinking’ is white culture. The cart title is ‘Aspects and Assumption of Whiteness in the United States. The digital image of the chart created a stir on Twitter as the public expressed their disappointment, stating that hard work is a key to success for everyone, not only reserved for white people. The public also stated that the chart is racially biased.