The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Volunteers, Interns and Work Experience policy


The Gallery has a national and worldwide reputation – a reputation that has been built on the skills and knowledge of our staff. Its role is wide ranging – collecting and conserving, cataloguing and researching the collection, providing access and interpretation at the Gallery and on line.

The Gallery employs 215 people in a wide range of roles covering both the museum based careers such as Curators and Conservators as well as those professions found in other sectors – Accountants, IT Specialists, Educationalists, Editors and Front of House staff.

Employment within museums is highly sought after and it is sometimes difficult to get a foot on the ladder. Valuable experience that may help secure employment in the sector can be provided through volunteering, internships and work experience programmes.

At the same time there are still difficulties attracting a sufficiently diverse range of applicants to the sector, despite the increasing efforts of museums and galleries to draw staff from a wide cross section of the working population. By providing opportunities to schools and through positive action programmes we aim to broaden the range of people who are familiar with the work of the National Portrait Gallery and with museums and galleries more generally.

We also recognise that there are individuals who are keenly interested in the Gallery for whom being able to contribute to our work is a way of giving something back to society whilst also being immensely satisfying personally.

In an organisation the size of the National Portrait Gallery only limited opportunities can be provided and it is essential that these are effectively co-ordinated and offered in a fair and equitable way.

Internships and Work Experience:

The Gallery offers opportunities for work experience through a number of programmes:

  • Schools: The Gallery works in partnership with three local secondary schools to offer pupils the opportunity to spend time understanding the world of work and the particular range of work that is undertaken by the Gallery.
  • Positive Action: The Gallery is currently providing specialist training to disadvantaged and black and minority ethnic people through its involvement with the Arts Council England, Inspire Programme and through Global Graduates.
  • Undergraduates and Graduates: There are varied opportunities across the Gallery for students to contribute to the work of the Gallery. These opportunities and application details are advertised on the Gallery’s web site.
  • Archive and Curatorial Internship Programme: This is a six-month training programme aimed specifically at post-graduates who wish to gain practical collections related experience.


Are people who help the work of the Gallery, in their own time, and without expectation of material reward. Volunteers enable us to draw on a very wide pool of skills gained from professional and personal experience that enriches the work of the Gallery

Purpose of the Volunteer, Interns and Work Experience Policy:

The purpose of this policy document is to:

  • Affirm the National Portrait Gallery’s commitment to involving volunteers, interns and work experience with the work of the Gallery.
  • Provide a formal basis for the involvement of volunteers, interns and work experience at the Gallery.
  • Provide overall support, guidance and direction to those involved with managing volunteers, interns and work experience people.

Management of Volunteers, Interns and Work Experience

The engagement of any volunteer, intern or work experience person is binding in honour only and is not a legal relationship. The use of these people at the Gallery is guided by the following principles:

  • All requests or programmes to engage volunteer, intern or work experience people must be coordinated by the Personnel Department.
  • All volunteers, interns and work experience people are to be seen by a member of the Personnel Department on their first day. This is to ensure that the Gallery’s statutory obligations are met, to provide a formal induction to Gallery wide policies and practice and to ensure an appropriate departmental induction has been organized.
  • Relevant Gallery policies and procedures (Equality, Health & Safety etc.) must be observed by those involved in the management of volunteers, interns and work experience people.
  • The recruitment and selection of volunteers, interns and work experience people at the Gallery will be managed in accordance with the aims of this Policy and the Gallery’s Recruitment and Equality Policies
  • All departments with volunteers, interns or work experience people are required to set out clearly the work or tasks that are to be undertaken. This is to ensure that all concerned with these activities know their respective roles and responsibilities. Personnel will need to see this information before any programme of engagement is undertaken.
  • Clear line management and individual responsibility for each person will be established from the outset and notified to the individual. All volunteers, interns and work experience persons will be offered appropriate access to support and supervision on a regular basis, with a named employee, and will know whom to contact in an emergency.
  • Volunteers, interns and work experience people must be given access to appropriate equipment and training and encouraged to participate as fully as possible in Gallery life.
  • Volunteers, interns and work experience people may not be placed in a position where they have responsibility for young people (under 18’s) nor are they permitted to work unsupervised with children.
  • Personal information recorded about volunteers, interns and work experience people is kept and maintained with appropriate safeguards for confidentiality. The Gallery observes the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and any person collecting or administering data will also be required to comply with the provisions of this Act.
  • A security pass will be provided to volunteers and interns who are at the Gallery for a minimum of three months. It is the responsibility of line managers to co-ordinate the issuing of passes through Personnel. Line managers are also responsible for ensuring that passes are collected from the volunteer/intern on their last day.

We expect that Volunteers, Interns and Work Experience people will:

  • Respect the aims, values and reputation of the Gallery and carry out their tasks responsibly.
  • Co-operate with Gallery employees and work within agreed guidelines and time frames and notify their named employee of any concerns. • Observe all relevant gallery policies and procedures (Equality, Health and Safety etc.).
  • Observe the Gallery’s rules and standards laid out in the Employee Handbook. As happens automatically with employees, volunteers will usually be expected to assign copyright to the Gallery of any work produced as part of their role at the Gallery.

Revised May 2008