by Rachel Neilson
Practicums at Carleton offer so many great opportunities with the ability to gain work experience, create networking opportunities and as a resume building. I’m currently doing a practicum placement at the Canada Council Art Bank. It’s such a hidden collection of incredible Canadian art. During my undergrad at Carleton I did a practicum at the National Gallery of Canada in the Prints and Drawings Department (which you can read about in a previous blog post here: https://carleton.ca/arthistory/2015/practicum-experience/) and I’m currently in the process of arranging another practicum for the winter term. One thing I’ve learned from practicums and speaking to my fellow colleagues at Carleton about their practicums is that it is important to be discerning about your placement. Experiences gained during practicums can be very practical and beneficial to your future employment if you’re smart about where you do your placement. It is important to recognize what you want out of your practicum and to make sure your placement is a good fit. A smaller institution may give you amazing hands-on experience where you will see real tangible outcomes. A large institution like the National Gallery of Canada will be a impressive name on your resume but your contributions as a gear in the larger machine may be harder to see when you’re done with your placement.
My placement at the Canada Council Art Bank has been an amazing learning opportunity. One of the most important things I will take away from my experience there is my new knowledge of contemporary Canadian art. I had little to no knowledge of contemporary Canadian art before, having had little opportunity to study it in school. I’m lucky enough to go to my placement every week and see new and interesting works of art from some of the most talented artists in the country. As someone who wants to work in the arts in Ottawa it seems especially important to have at least some knowledge of contemporary Canadian artists. One of my main goals for this practicum was to educate myself and this past term has been like a little crash course on contemporary Canadian art.
My main project at the Art Bank is working on organizing their digital collection to make it more accessible within the Art Bank and to the public. Through this project I am gaining experience in caring for and organizing collections, in this case digital collections. This experience is so valuable for me since my future career goals are to work in collections management. Although I’m not working on a museum collection at the Art Bank, the unique challenges of the Art Bank’s collection make the experience even more valuable and applicable for the future. The Art Bank’s collection is Canada’s art collection, however it is not exactly physically accessible to the public unless it is being rented by a business for their office space or going to be in an exhibition. This is why the digital collection is so important for the Art Bank so that they can make it accessible for Canadians to see. I decided to pursue the Art Bank for my practicum placement for specific reasons, which were to gain these specific collections management experiences that I knew would be useful for my future career goals. Digital collections are becoming increasingly important as a way for institutions to make their collection known to the public and more accessible. So the skills and experiences I’ve gained during my practicum will no doubt be useful for the future.
All practicums are good experience but to have a great practicum experience it is important to identify those goals and make them central to your practicum experience. My goal was to gain collections management experience in whatever small way I could through my practicum and I’ve been very fortunate with my placement at the Art Bank. So do your research for practicums!