Art history and museum studies students at the University of Lethbridge have the opportunity to apply for a paid internship opportunity at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alberta. Thea Sleight received word in February 2020 that she had been selected for the opportunity, to take place during the final year of her fine arts degree.

Soon after receiving the good news, the COVID pandemic caused the closures of public institutions including art galleries and museums, temporarily putting the internship up in the air. Although the museum is currently closed to the public, it was determined that Sleight could safely take on the internship at the Whyte in support of the art, heritage and archives areas. As a collections intern, she was assigned to cataloguing the contents of the original home of the museum’s founders, Peter and Catharine Robb Whyte.

“My main projects were to document, label and store the couple’s photography equipment, clothing items, figurines, sketches, and more recently, pharmaceuticals. I also assisted in the instalment of the newest exhibition, Breathe, which reflects on the current pandemic through handcrafted masks,” describes Sleight. “I’m thankful to be able to go to work, often having entire rooms to myself, and feel safe with the extensive safety protocols.”

The Whyte Museum Internship is not Sleight’s first experiential learning opportunity during her time at uLethbridge, completing internships at the Galt Museum & Archives and the uLethbridge Hess Gallery.

“I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to complete internships at various institutions. Not only have they given me practical skills and connections that I can apply in the real-world, but they have given me a more realistic sense of the profession I am pursuing overall.”

The Whyte Museum Internship offered Sleight her first full-time museum work experience, and the opportunity has confirmed she’s on the right career path.

“It’s been an incredibly educational twelve weeks. I’ve had the absolute best time exploring the collection and getting to know the Whyte’s through their artifacts. I’ve gained new perspectives and invaluable skills in this position. This experience at the Whyte Museum has only reaffirmed my choice to pursue a career in the museum field, and only further fuelled my passion for the arts.”

Sleight was inspired to attend uLethbridge motivated by stories from her high school math teacher, of a friend that travelled the world buying art for clients before becoming a creative director at a prominent art institution.

“All I remember thinking was, that’s the dream! I want to go wherever that guy went, and I’m so glad I did,” says Sleight.

“Throughout my time here, I have met the most wonderful peers and instructors, and have been able to engage in opportunities that may have not been otherwise possible at other institutions. It’s everything I could’ve wanted out of a program."

The Whyte Museum Internship is available thanks to a partnership between the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and the Faculty of Fine Arts, supported by generous fine arts donors.