Notre Dame Annual Smithsonian Internship
Research and training internships for Notre Dame anthropology majors and minors are being offered by the University of Notre Dame Department of Anthropology and the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington DC.
This program is being funded by our department and represents the first collaboration of its kind between the Smithsonian and a university. The Smithsonian selected Notre Dame following the Department's proposal in which we emphasized our four-fields approach and our commitment to undergraduate research. After reviewing our faculty and our web site, they concurred that Notre Dame Anthropology was, indeed, very special. The Museum staff guarantees that at least one of our students will be selected for their summer internships.
The Anthropology Division of the National Museum of Natural History will mentor students for an educational and career building internship opportunity. Students will be paired with the most appropriate available sponsor at NMNH. Potential projects may fall in the categories of field, laboratory or archival research in either archaeology or physical anthropology; collections development (researching a particular aspect of a collection to improve documentation or accessibility); or museum practice (likely research related to exhibit development). We will post information about the specific opportunities available for the upcoming summer as soon as it becomes available. To meet previous interns and read about their experience with MNNH see the bottom of this web page.
Internships are 10 weeks, timed to the UND summer schedule. Students will be supported with a stipend to help defray costs associated with transportation, housing, and meals.
To apply for the University of Notre Dame Anthropology Internship, please submit:
- A letter of application describing:
- Why you would like to be an intern at the NMNH.
- Your qualifications.
- How this internship fits into your future plans to engage anthropology. Include a discussion of the types of research projects in which you would like to be involved.
- An updated curriculum vitae (NOT a resume).
- Contact information for at least one letter of recommendation.
- Send your complete application to EJHaanstad@nd.edu or bring your application to:
University of Notre Dame Anthropology Department
296 Corbett Family Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
The Internship Selection Committee is unable to consider incomplete applications and/or application packets submitted after the deadline.
Submission Deadline: 5 pm Friday, April 2, 2021.
The following proposed St. Lawrence Gateways Project may be available to the 2019 intern:
Intern Sponsor: Sabrina Sholts, Curator, Biological Anthropology
The EMPHASIS (Environmental Mismatches in Primates and Humans: Anthropogenic Settings and Impacts Survey) project is a large study of pathological indicators in human and nonhuman primate crania associated with a range of anthropogenic environments. To date we have surveyed 2181 individuals, including 1104 nonhuman primates comprising all hominoids and macaques. This internship provides the opportunity to learn and use EMPHASIS protocols to assess nonhuman primate remains in NMNH collections for age, sex, and pathological conditions such as bony porosity, bony growths, osteophytic lipping of the temporal mandibular joint or at the occipital condyles, healed fractures, surgical implants, or deformities, as well as dental calculus presence, abundance, and distribution. Drawing health-related comparisons between human and nonhuman primates in anthropogenic environments is a major goal of this project.
Intern Sponsor: William Fitzhugh, Curator, Arctic Archaeology
The Arctic Studies Center’s “St. Lawrence Gateways Project” has been studying the archaeology of the northeastern Gulf of St. Lawrence for the past ten years, concentrating on a Basque whaling site dating ca. 1600-1700. Also present at this site is the southernmost Labrador Inuit (Eskimo) occupations known and marks an important development in European-Inuit relations, which before 1700 were largely hostile. The field project takes place from 20 July to 28 August and includes boat-based archaeological surveys and excavations. The 8- person team lives on a Smithsonian research vessel and conducts archaeological work along the Quebec Lower North shore from Cape Whittle (Harrington Harbor) to the Strait of Belle Isle. Activities will include excavations and field surveys. Participants need to be healthy, have previous outdoor experience, and be able to work effectively in semi-isolated conditions. More information can be found by reading recent project field reports at
Previous Intern Stories
Mia Ayer, Summer 2019, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
During my internship experience at the Smithsonian, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Sabrina Sholts, Dr. Andrea Eller, and Rita Austin in collecting data for a larger ongoing project called EMPHASIS (Environmental Mismatches in Primates and Humans: Anthropogenic Settings and Impacts Survey). This study largely focuses on how both humans and nonhuman primates are impacted by their environments, assessing differences in observed paleopathological markers across age, sex, and pathology categories. With the help of my wonderful supervisor Rita Austin and the collections manager Dave Hunt in the Museum Support Center, I was able to discern and recognize bony pathologies and gain a better general understanding of human anatomy in over 1200 individuals in the human Biological Anthropology collections, all of whom were from ~1200-1500 CE, pre-Spanish contact Peru. Using the collected data, I developed my own research questions to pursue and develop into a poster project, which I plan to continue researching as part of a thesis project. The project under the guidance of my mentors at the Smithsonian revolved around a bony pathology of the skull within the ear, called external auditory exostosis (EAE), which was relatively frequent in the Peruvian collections I surveyed. Specifically, I explored whether the pathological etiology aligned with previous studies asserting EAE is solely associated with water temperature, and analyzed my findings within a biocultural framework. Through this experience I was able to not only greatly round out my knowledge in biological anthropology, but open so many new doors and opportunities which pushed me to engage in the discipline in ways I had not considered before. The total immersion into such a driven and supportive team of people who are excited about anthropology really intensified my passion for the discipline- the relationships built during my time there will be lifelong.
Noémi Toroczkai, Summer 2019, St. Lawrence Gateways Project in Quebec
This summer I embarked on an incredible journey to the Arctic as an archaeological intern for the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Department. It was an experience of a lifetime, to say the least. I learned so much about the archaeological process, through the expertise of Dr. William Fitzhugh, an incredibly knowledgeable archaeologist who is known for his work in the Arctic. I lived on a 50 ft long boat named the Pitsiulak with two other interns from Dartmouth, our skipper Perry, two archaeologists with various specialties, and a crew of archaeological divers from the University of Montreal. While the divers went around looking for underwater sites and shipwrecks, the dig-team surveyed many areas along the northern coast of Quebec. We spent a lot of time excavating at two sites: Hart Chalet and Grand Isle. I learned many new skills such as how to use a trowel, how to map and record profiles, and how to map entire sites to scale on a piece of graphing paper.
Through this internship I was able to explore an area of the world that is rarely frequented by anyone. I saw icebergs, whales, puffins, dolphins, historical Norse sites, and much, much more. I met and interacted with the local communities we visited and learned about what it is like to live in such environmentally unfavorable conditions year-round. I learned about Inuit history and Basque trading and whaling practices.
This internship allowed me to form bonds with the rest of my team members that I know will last even after we all have parted ways. This was an experience of a lifetime, and I will always cherish the memories that come from it.
I’m incredibly grateful for the support of Ms. Virginia Coss and her family for giving me the opportunity to have such a fruitful experience. Thank you so much!
Maxwell Lander, Summer 2018, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
This summer I got the amazing opportunity to intern at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in D.C. I worked under the guidance of Dr. Sabrina Sholts and Dr. Andrea Eller on a project called E.M.P.H.A.S.I.S. which stands for "Environmental Mismatches in Primates and Humans: Anthropogenic Settings and Impacts Survey." Working to collect data for the project, I spent most of my time surveying human skeletal remains, specifically skulls, from the wide array of collections the Smithsonian has in storage. The project gave me a valuable opportunity to get better acquainted with the anatomy and structure of the human skull, as well as with various forms of bone pathology. Do to the geographic range of the Museum’s collection, I also got an amazing opportunity to see how the morphology of the skeleton changes with geographic area, which I found really interesting. All in all, I had an amazing time at the Smithsonian and am thankful to have gotten such great hands on experience with bones, data collection, and survey work in an Anthropological setting.
Haley Adams, Summer 2017, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and Canada
My summer internship experience involved working at the Smithsonian with Dr. William Fitzhugh and participating in fieldwork through the St. Lawrence Gateways project. I learned about many different areas of anthropology- from museum curatorial practices to arctic animals to North American archaeology. I enjoyed living on the Pitsiulak with the crew and learning how to conduct surveys and archaeological excavations in Quebec and Labrador. This unique internship experience allowed me to learn many practical skills, such as tying knots and using a trowel, and provided a hands on approach to learning the anthropology and history of the region. I was able to meet many people over the course of the summer and the time that I spent with them and the memories that we made were invaluable.
Alexandra Castellanos, Summer 2017 Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and Canada
This summer I was afforded the amazing opportunity to apply for an internship position with the Arctic Studies department at the Smithsonian Institute. While most would think as an intern I’d spend time in D.C. pushing paper or cataloguing (teeny-tiny micro lithics), instead I spent my internship living on a boat and cruising about the Arctic looking for sites and excavating them. On this expedition, I helped find a Maritime Archaic burial site, some Dorset tent rings, a bone knife handle, so many flakes and a coin; this list barely scratches the surface of the interesting discovers we made as a team last summer. This experience cannot be described in so few words, but I can express that the memories of seeing puffins flutter above the water, learning how to properly profile, and to how to catalogue and handle artifacts will never leave me. In addition to the amazing people and the chance to work side by side with Bill Fitzhugh, a literately world renowned archeologist, I was also able to develop as a student of anthropology and improve my deduction skills. If you like hiking, boating, laughing, fun, and archeology you should jump at the opportunity, you won’t regret it.
Ijeoma Ogbogu, Summer 2016, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and Canada
The adventures I experienced working with Dr. William Fitzhugh were nothing short of amazing! His deep and expansive knowledge and ever-growing interest in the artic regions of North America are truly inspiring. Working alongside him, I spent the first part of my internship in Washington DC. There I spent three weeks researching and reading about the effects of climate change on artic animals and how decreased length of winters affects the lifestyles of the Inuit. There I worked alongside two other interns before leaving for the second part of my internship. The second part took place in Canada. There, with six other people we voyaged along the waters of Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland on a Fifty foot longliner boat, The S.S. Pitsiulak. Not only did we brave the rocky seas, we also saw ice caps, whales and seals. Our main goal was to survey islands and look for potential archeological sites. Finally we made our final stop at Blanc Sablon, Quebec and finished a dig that was started last year. Though it was a rough start at first, the team was able to pull through and the valuable hands on experience I gained was amazing. I give my thanks to the Notre Dame Anthropology Department and the Coss family for this wonderful opportunity.
Katie Portman, Summer 2015, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and the Hamilton Inlet region of Labrador, Canada
Molly Iott, Summer 2015, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., and the Hamilton Inlet region of Labrador, Canada
This summer I was able to work with the Smithsonian Institution on an archaeological dig in Canada where I gained invaluable hands on field experience that has contributed and will continue to contribute greatly to my anthropological education. This opportunity was unforgettable and I thank you again and again for making it all possible!
Mariel Kennedy, Summer 2014, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., Labrador, and Quebec
Dr. Fitzhugh, the skipper, Perry Colbourne, and myself boarded the 50 longliner, The Pitsiulak, in Newfoundland. This ship would serve as our home, form of transportation, and research vessel for the next 6 weeks. From Newfoundland, we we traveled up coast to Rigolette where we would with Nunatsiavut government archaeologists before leaving to survey Double Mere. The time spent traveling along the coast was valuable. During my time on the boat, icebergs, puffins, whales, dolphins, and seals became familiar sights for me. Additionally, picking mussels, clams, chipping ice off icebergs with axes, and fishing became parts of daily life. We would begin traveling at 4 AM and stop stop at dusk. Every night we would stop in a coastal town or anchor in interesting locations like the sight of an old shipwreck or triworks. While in the different towns, I was able to see how life along the coast had developed while also experiencing the current lifestyles. Each town has a unique history of past and present inhabitants. While in the towns, I visited many archeological sites, picked a multitude of berries, and walked along the coast finding all sorts of old sea glass and ceramic fragments.
We arrived in Rigolette after more than a week of travel. The surveying was an invigorating experience. Dr. Fitzhugh, the Nunatsiavut archeologists, and myself would sit on the back of the boat as we went through the area. If we saw a terrace, an area amenable to settlement, an area with poison celery, or an area that locals has believed there was something, the skipper would stop the boat. From here, we would anchor, load the zodiac with shovels, trowels and people, and motor out to the area. Hikes were as much as 10 hours to get to the areas. If you saw a firecracker rock or blowout, further examination was necessary. I never thought it was possible to appreciate the landscape of the ground so much. During this survey, we found remnants of many Eskimo Villages. When test pits were dug, we found pipe fragments, seed beads, tools and many animal bones.
In the house, we found about 4 garbage bags worth of bags worth of animal bones (mostly seal, whale, and caribou), countless beads, soapstone pots, spear points, foreshaft, whalebone sled runners, bone needles, beads, basque tiles and brick, knives, pots, maritime archaic bifaces, and saw blades. When archeologists dig they both destroy and preserve. They preserve because they are uncovering and making something accessible that might be rotting underground otherwise. Yet they also destroy. Digging up artifacts is removing them from their context and setting. Given this, it is vital that archeologists do their jobs correctly and take meticulous notes. Excavation cannot be redone if an error is made.
Debra Smetana, Summer 2013, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
This summer, I worked at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s Archaeobiology Laboratory, focusing on the faunal analysis of a collection of bones excavated from the Epipaleolithic roundhouse settlement of Hallan Çemi, an 11,000-year-old site in the Zagros Mountains of southeastern Turkey. Our goal in studying this collection of animal bones was to determine whether or not goats, sheep, pigs, and bovines had been domesticated yet in this region of the Fertile Crescent. The markers of domestication- from smaller stature to specific gender and age profiles of butchered animals- can all be seen through careful study of bones. Having barely any background in faunal analysis, this internship was an intensive hands-on learning experience for me. The first day I came into the lab, my boss, Melinda Zeder, stationed me in front of a table covered with fragmented sheep and goat bones and told me to separate them into element. After much trial and error, I went from this first day of faunal analysis to, ten weeks later, opening up a never-before touched bag of bones from the site and identifying and recording the scraps of bone it contained, with everything from bear and elk to fox and turtle represented.
As an aspiring archaeologist who plans on attending graduate school in the fall of 2014, I found this internship to be invaluable for my future career. Learning how to work in an environment with other interns- learning from them, asking them for help, and not being afraid to offer constructive criticism on their own work- is a great skill to have in general, but especially for archaeologists, who work in groups constantly. The hands-on nature of the work I was doing also ensured that there was never a dull moment. The thrill of finding part of a bear ulna or a polished and carved elk horn was never lost on me, even after ten weeks of doing the same thing. In the end, my time with the Smithsonian made me feel like I really contributed to an important project, one that will give tremendous insight into the history of animal domestication and the Neolithic Revolution in the Fertile Crescent.
Rebecca Mayus, Summer 2013 Internship at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Center
This summer I had the opportunity to work as an intern with Dr. William Fitzhugh, an archaeologist and director of the Smithsonian
Institution’s Arctic Studies Center. I accompanied Dr. Fitzhugh on his field season to the Lower North Shore of Quebec, where we joined a group of divers from the University of Montreal and conducted land and underwater excavations at Hare Harbor, a late 16th/early 17th century Basque whaling and cod fishing station.
In preparation for the work in Canada, I spent several weeks in Washington DC, working at the National Museum of Natural History. There, I studied previous field reports about the site and began to compile these reports into a monograph. Having familiarized myself with the Hare Harbor project, I set off to meet Dr. Fitzhugh in Newfoundland, where we boarded the 50-foot longliner Pitsiulak, a Smithsonian research vessel which would serve as our home and base of operations for the next month. I had no experience with archeological fieldwork prior to this internship. For that matter, I had no prior experience with life at sea, and so it would be a bit of an understatement to say that the field season in Canada was a new experience. However, as soon as we set sail for Quebec and a pod of white-sided dolphins came to race alongside the Pitsiulak I knew I was in for an incredible summer.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the extent to which I enjoyed my time aboard the Pitsiulak. The site at which we worked was incredibly beautiful, and my shipmates were only too happy to introduce me to all the things which I, having grown up far from any coastline, had been missing all my life: Newfoundland folk music, fresh cod and lobster straight from the ocean, the art of intricate knot-tying and rope-twining, and bakeapples, the bright orange subarctic berries which form the centerpiece of what quite possibly may be the world’s best pies.
But the most rewarding aspect of the trip was the archaeology itself. As one who hopes to pursue anthropological study into graduate school, I found the training I received alongside Dr. Fitzhugh to be invaluable. Not only was I involved with digging at the sight, but I was also able to assist in the analysis of finds by learning techniques for plotting stratigraphy and artifact distribution. Our finds allowed for increased understanding of seasonal Basque occupations at Hare Harbor. Moreover, Hare Harbor has revealed evidence of an Inuit presence, and our work contributed to an elucidation of what appears to be peaceful Basque and Inuit cohabitation. As we worked to excavate a hearth feature at the site, I felt a constant sense of excitement and anticipation: a sense of being able to discover the stories of those who had visited the area before me and thereby share in and become a part of their history. For this reason I was more than happy to sift through handfuls of dirt looking for the rusted shells of iron nails and broken bits of pottery, to carefully plot the positions of terra-cotta roof tiles, and to painstakingly uncover by hand minuscule bird bones, the unexpectedly hardy remnants of a dinner 300 years past. These experiences will not only aid me as I continue my studies in anthropology but will always stand out as exceptional opportunities to contribute to a truly rewarding cause: the exploration and interpretation of a part of human history.
I-Ming Archbold, Summer 2012, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
As an intern for Dr. William Fitzhugh of the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, I traveled with him to the Altai Mountains National Park in western Mongolia to conduct fieldwork as part of a collaborative project between him and Dr. Richard Kortum, a philosophy professor at East Tennessee State University. The project’s main objective is to construct a cultural history of the Biluut Hills and surrounding Lake Khoton region from Paleolithic times to the present by examining archaeological sites and rock art. Our fieldwork lasted for 38 days, and our base camp was situated on the shore of the beautiful Khoton Lake. We had a very large team, nearly 50 people in total, collaborating on the project. Dr. Fitzhugh had brought along two other Smithsonian interns, as well as the director of Geographic Information Systems from the Smithsonian. Richard Kortum had brought along six of his students. The group also included a professional photographer, researchers from the National Museum of Mongolia along with their student assistants, researchers and students from Western Kentucky University (investigating settlement patterns as part of our project), and a Yale anthropology professor. As Dr. Fitzhugh’s intern, I worked on the archeology team, which meant excavating for eight hours per day – uncovering everything from burials to hearth pits to ritual features with indiscernible objectives. Nearly every burial or ritual feature was distinguishable because of intricate surface boulder arrangements, ranging from 10-meter diameter circular arrangements to vertical slabs in rectangular formations to single standing stones. The archeology team worked to remove these surface boulder rocks and dig, layer by layer, within them to search for any remaining artifacts. We would often find bits of charcoal and rock flakes (chipped off from stone tools), the charcoal in sufficient quantity being good for c14 dating. Occasionally, we would find something of higher importance, such as arrowheads placed with its quiver, entire human skeletons, and possible organic fabric material. We would remove the artifacts, and replace the turf, dirt, and rocks that we had dug up. Results pertaining to our project’s objective, unfortunately, can only come when we date our artifacts, which will take some time. In addition to my archeology work, I worked on my individual research. Initially, I had proposed to examine the dynamic between the American and Mongolian archeologists, with the objective of determining what intercultural anthropology projects meant for the field of anthropology as a whole. Upon arriving to our field site in Mongolia, however, I realized that the Mongolian and American archeology teams would largely be separated, doing their own excavation sites, and so I would not be able to observe much interaction between the groups (at least not during digs). Fortunately, I became interested in another topic that is quickly becoming of importance in many parts of Mongolia – the effects of mining development and what that means for the nomadic herding culture and the field of archeology in Mongolia. For this project, I traveled to many ger communities that were a few hours walking distance from our base camp, and interviewed nomadic herding families. I would often go by myself, which made for more expedient interviewing, but other times, I would bring other students who wanted to visit families. I also interviewed many of the Mongolian archeology researchers and students in order to gain their perspective on how the mining development is impacting archeology in Mongolia (much archeology work is created because of mining projects). The results of my individual project are more discernible than that of the archeology project. The consensus among nomadic herding families that I interviewed was that mining development is extremely harmful to the natural environment that herding families are accustomed to, and that economic development through mining should not proceed if it means damaging the environment and affecting the nomadic herding culture. However, herding families believe that the nomadic herding culture will continue strong, even with economic development attracting more and more herders to the city life. I will write a more in-depth report on my individual research for the Arctic Studies Center (Smithsonian) Newsletter.
Melissa Beseda, Summer 2010, Smithsonian Intern
"During my time at the National Museum of Natural History, I primarily researched a collection of Haitian Vodun Altars which were on display during the 2004 Folklife Festival which I subsequently catalogued and wrote up a history of. I also spent ample time at the Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center, which houses 55 million objects, digitizing objects, collected by Herbert Ward from the Belgian Congo during the early 1900s. At this summer’s Folklife Festival, I interviewed visitors about the languages they speak as part of Recovering Voices, which acquainted them with the importance of language preservation and of prevention of cultural knowledge loss. Given that museums exist as an accessible facet of anthropology, I was very fortunate to gain firsthand experience of the methods museums use to promote cultural understanding at one of the largest museums in the United States.
I have gained invaluable knowledge and training through this internship opportunity. I made great connections and loved the work that I performed. My supervisor was exceptionally knowledgeable and an ideal source of support and guidance. It was incredible working behind the scenes in such a world renowned museum. Additionally, Washington, D.C. offers incredible perks to its summer interns and you get to bypass all of the tourist lines into all of the Smithsonian Museums with your Intern Badge. My time at the NMNH solidified my conviction that I want to pursue a career in museums. I am currently engaged in a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest and next year I will pursue a Masters in Museum Studies at Columbia University, George Washington, or University College London."