How can a museum with a public subsidy of £40m and self-generated income of £30m get away with not paying their interns at least NMW?!

The museum in question is the Victoria & Albert museum.

They expect their intern to work for them at least six months, four days per week, seven hours a day.

What makes this job advert so interesting is the brazen acknowledgement of the current problems graduates and finding when trying to secure jobs in the arts. They write:

However, with jobs in the cultural sector at a premium, and many graduate students unable to secure job interviews without demonstrable work experience, the experience offered through this internship is invaluable, and past interns have gone on to secure a variety of posts in the cultural sector.

Is this a threat? Is it goading? Are they saying that without this internship you won’t be able to get your dream job? Positions like these only perpetuate the problem!

The advert can be found here: V&A Internship.

Victoria and Albert - hardly a work of art themselves.

Victoria and Albert - hardly a work of art themselves.

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14 Responses to “How can a museum with a public subsidy of £40m and self-generated income of £30m get away with not paying their interns at least NMW?!”


  1. 1 A. 01/23/2011 at 9:33 pm

    They’ve got no shame. If they expect someone to WORK there full-time for six months, NMW should be compulsory. If they want someone working for free it’s either illegal or they could do a legal work trial (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Jobseekers/programmesandservices/DG_173561) for a few (i.e. 2) weeks.

  2. 2 MB 01/26/2011 at 5:07 pm

    The problem with many museums, theatres, etc. is that they are charities. So is V&A. Charities are allowed to employ voluntary workers – which is a worker who has a contract, set of responsibilities, but does not receive remuneration beyond the expenses they incurred through their voluntary work…

    It’s sort of a legal loophole. I still find it immoral, that one of the biggest museums in the UK (if not in world) is not able to pay minimum wage to a person they expect to work for them for six months…

  3. 3 anon 01/31/2011 at 9:59 am

    This is a serious problem with the art world and more so in the UK. Moma offers 12 month full-time internships paid and if they are unpaid there are only for 3 months and 2 days a week with travel paid. It is shocking what the art world is getting away with. SHAME ON YOU!

  4. 4 Heather 02/07/2011 at 1:42 pm

    What’s got to be really galling for the applicants for this position is that other departments have got a HLF funded intern position.

  5. 5 L 05/19/2011 at 12:48 pm

    I have to say that this is not true for every position at the V&A.
    I interned there this Easter and could not have been happier with my experience. The office was extremely kind to me and grateful to have me there to help them . I worked less hours than the paid staff, only 3 days a week or so – they definitely were not trying to take advantage of me. They encouraged me to get to know the museum as much as possible, encouraging me to ‘wander’ if I got bored of work, and to go to the exhibits. I am delighted to be returning there this summer.

    I do not deny that this particular advert is horribly unfair but it is not the same for everyone!

    • 6 internsanonymous 05/19/2011 at 2:00 pm

      Hi ‘L’,
      If you fancy writing up a longer account of your internship, please do- we like hearing about good experiences too!
      Rosy IA

  6. 7 KS 09/29/2011 at 9:10 am

    I took this internship. There were seven interns in just this department alone. Not one of us, after six-month’s work (and the hours are a lie- you’re given tasks to do that cannot reasonably be done without overtime) has left with a job secured because of the internship.
    Everyone in the department is wonderful, and they do try to help, but the department would crumble without its interns, who also make a significant contribution to the enterprise/business side of the museum.

  7. 8 Anon 10/29/2011 at 2:02 pm

    I also did this internship and, having done unpaid internships for years, can safely say that it was by far the worst. Here are some examples of how the interns were exploited and mistreated by the Department of Theatre and Performance at the V & A:

    – They recruit new interns every 6 months and literally run the Department of Theatre and Performance with them. The interns are unpaid staff first and beneficiaries of training/experience second.

    – We were all given far too much to do in the time allocated, meaning that some interns had to stay unreasonably late.

    – One intern was given the task of being PA to the Head of Exhibitions in the Department of Theatre and Performance. She spent a good part of her time having to get her coffees, collect her shopping, book her holidays, reply to her children’s school letters and repeatedly refute parking charges, amongst many other inappropriate tasks. She was also regularly contacted to complete tasks in her personal time.

    – Some (by no means all) paid members of staff would openly talk about the interns who were not present in the office in negative terms. It made for a demoralising and unprofessional office atmosphere.

    – Some of the interns were working as researchers for a major new project. Part way through this, a paid researcher was recruited to do exactly the same job as them.

    – There was an occasion in which one of the interns requested a reference part way through the internship. Despite numerous reminders, the member of staff in question forgot and there was a panic on the last day when another member of staff with whom she had not worked had to write it.

    – Significant pieces of work, such as newspaper articles, lectures, etc. were often written by the interns and never credited.

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  10. 11 Anonymous Intern 09/04/2013 at 7:51 pm

    Please do not do an internship with this department. You will be exploited with no reward. I have worked at lots of museums in London. I have also spoken to other people from my course who worked for other V&A departments. This is by far the worst department. It’s disgusting that the department responsible for an exhibition like David Bowie is won’t pay its staff or reward its interns.


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