Rebecca "Ruth" Dibble Interning at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dibble is Recipient of Richard and Patsy Couper Grant
By Lisbeth Redfield
August 17, 2006
Rebecca "Ruth" Dibble '07 (Raleigh, N.C.) spent her summer as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The rising senior art history major had a position as a volunteer intern in department of European Decorative Arts assisting Jeff Munger, the curator of the collection.
While many of her peers opted for research, Dibble was one of 13 Hamiltonians who received funding to take a summer internship. The downside of internships is that many of them are unpaid, requiring students to pay their own housing and living expenses as well as working for free, all in pursuit of the elusive resume-booster "work experience."
Thanks to generous grants from parents and alumni, Hamilton students can apply for funding to support them while they work in a field of interest with an organization that cannot pay them. Though Dibble worked in what is known as an "unpaid internship," she received money from the Richard and Patsy Couper Grant, awarded in honor of Patsy and the late Richard Couper '44 who for several years have supported summer internships for Hamilton students working in non-profit internships in library science, museums or other non-profit organizations.
"It's really rough when you're not getting paid," Dibble added, explaining that New York City is one of the most popular places for internships, and one of the hardest places to get housing. "It's wonderful that Hamilton is doing this," she said, and praised the generosity of the Coupers in donating her grant.
Dibble chose to pursue an internship because she wanted work experience. "Things you learn in school are not the same thing as being around an object," she explained. Academic studies place little emphasis on the material product, but Dibble's interest in the decorative arts means that she values the objects themselves and enjoys interacting with them, which she did on a regular basis, writing labels for the art on exhibit, describing specific pieces of art for the database.
Like many jobs, this one was acquired by knowing the right people. Dibble knew that she wanted to do art history in New York and her cousin, a conservator in the city gave Dibble some leads.
"I feel like I have this wonderful momentum," said Dibble of her experience. She felt she had gained contacts and a great deal of knowledge of European porcelain and decorative arts. These will both probably come in handy, as Dibble hopes to go to graduate school to prepare for a career as a curator, maybe in decorative arts.
Asked for advice to the students applying for internships, Dibble said immediately, "persistence." It is easy, she explained, to feel like you, as an eager student, are an inconvenience, "but if you're not getting paid, you're doing them a favor." As for the grant, she said to "keep your eyes open" and go to informational meetings.
"I got lucky," she added. "The person I'm working for is the nicest person in the world…I have someone who cares about me."
-- Lisbeth Redfield