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  • Inspiration from the Alberta Smithsonian Internship Program

    There is a little known program in Alberta, Canada, called the Alberta Smithsonian Internship Program (ASIP). Established in 2006, this partnership between the Smithsonian and the Government of Alberta is administered by the University of Alberta, inviting ten students each year to intern in Washington, D.C., or New York City. The deadline to apply is January 15, 2018.

    In 2006, marking the centennial year for the province, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured a program about Alberta and its people and traditions. During the Festival, the Government of Alberta announced a legacy project with Smithsonian called Partners Across the Border, which funds the ASIP program. This highly competitive internship is open to all Alberta post-secondary students enrolled in any undergraduate or graduate program.

    Students must apply through the University of Alberta’s Go Abroad program, write an application letter stating their intended area of study, provide a current transcript, and secure a reference letter. There is a $250 application fee, which is refunded to applicants who are not selected. Decisions are made by a selection committee, and then forwarded to the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships & Internships for further appraisal. Successful applicants are awarded a travel scholarship to meet their needs for a ten-week placement.

    Taraya Middleton
    Taraya Middleton at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
    Photo by Elisa Hough

    Since the program began, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has hosted thirteen ASIP interns, with the majority coming from the University of Alberta. They have contributed to significant projects over the years, including Folklife Festival research and digitization projects in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives. Folklife staff also travel north to the University of Alberta to teach design courses relevant to producing and marketing albums for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the music label operated by the Center. Michael Asch, son of Folkways founder Moses Asch, is professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, and was influential in convincing his father to donate the entire Folkways catalog to the university’s Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology in 1987.

    I believe I am the first student to represent Athabasca University at the Smithsonian. My internship will fulfill a 400-hour capstone requirement for my degree in heritage resource management. While transcribing Reunion Weekend discussion sessions and Story Swap interviews from the 50th annual Folklife Festival, I have been granted access to world-class researchers, institutions, and knowledge that will stand me in good stead for future educational and career goals. Inspired by the Center’s mission and mandate, I have decided to pursue a PhD in folklore and look forward to beginning that journey in September 2018.

    Taraya Middleton is an intern at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, finishing her post-baccalaureate practicum in heritage resource management. She is from Calgary, Alberta.

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