Kathie Jiang ’20 majored in art history, minored in Spanish and Asian American studies, and held two different internships at the Johnson.

As I wrap up my studies in a very unique semester cut short, I am glad to say that I don’t feel fearful about my future—in spite of the interruptions, stasis, and uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because of all my experiences at Cornell, and I thank the Johnson in particular for all the enriching my growth as a student, a young professional, and a person.

(For a look into my other experiences at the Johnson, please check out my post at the Museum’s student blog, including my fieldwork working with the Johnson’s Carol Hockett and the team of docents in the school and family program.)

Fun fact: I wrote about my intention to intern at the Johnson in my personal statement application to Cornell! Indeed, I applied at the first possible opportunity, in the spring of my freshman year, drawn to the administrative department because it included responsibilities with the Johnson’s registration staff, as well as the development and communications departments. I was privileged to intern in high school with the registration department at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and I wanted to continue on that path of learning about collections management, exhibitions, object databases, and beyond. I was ecstatic to begin my sophomore year as an administrative intern with the Johnson.

Though that internship was shared across multiple departments, the staff that needed the most support was the administrative and development teams. As one of my first professional experiences, there were a lot of things I didn’t expect or understand at first: What exactly was the role of development in a museum? How can there be this much administrative work involved in even a small museum like the Johnson?

While these seemed like huge questions that I didn’t know where to begin asking, it was through really learning from the work that I was doing and observing my supervisors in their element that I started to genuinely understand the important role I was playing as an intern. I put myself in the shoes of my supervisors and realized the interlocking operations and complex relationships involving the Johnson Museum and its donors, members, and other stakeholders. I began to appreciate a range of incredible opportunities, from assisting with opening receptions and conferences to helping in orienting new staff members by sharing a bit of my own institutional memory of the procedures I had learned about.

I will always remember my two years as the Johnson’s administrative intern, where I learned many applicable skills and mindsets that I will continue to rely on for more opportunities to come. I thank my supervisors for trusting me with greater responsibilities to match my growth over the course of the internship, that in turn allowed me to branch out and develop even further.

When I returned from studying abroad in the fall of my senior year, I knew I missed the Museum too much to pass up another opportunity to intern and learn from the Johnson again! I joined the security and visitor services intern team in the spring, an experience sadly cut short. But I also learned a lot about myself and even more about museums. 

I’ve always admired the work of the Johnson security and visitor services staff, whether it was collaborating with guards with on setting up and taking down Museum Club events or working with K-12 students on school visits to ensure that were respecting and learning from the art in the galleries. I learned how to greet and orient visitors, answer phone calls, and work together with security to ensure the safety of both the visitors and the art. I was just getting the hang of it when we got news that the campus would be closing, but I learned so much from my mentors in a short time.

My steps into the professional world after graduation are going to be informed by my internship experiences at the Johnson, no matter what. I would like to work at a museum registration or education department, or teach in a K-12 environment focusing on English, arts, or social sciences education. Growing and learning from our work, the people around us, and the place we are situated in, will be something we do our whole lives, and I’m glad to have begun this journey with the Johnson Museum as a student intern.