Since 1984, the United States Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (World Heritage USA) International Exchange Program (IEP) has worked with heritage partners around the world to provide hands-on training opportunities for emerging cultural heritage professionals. To date, more than 700 interns from over 100 countries have participated in the program. The IEP sends participants from the United States to internship placements abroad and welcomes international participants to placements in the United States, in order to expose the next generation of heritage professionals to global best practices of historic preservation and heritage conservation. In this way, the program encourages the cross-cultural exchange of ideas and practices, enabling hosts and interns to learn from one another and increase their impact in the heritage field.
Each year, World Heritage USA (formerly US/ICOMOS) seeks public or private nonprofit heritage organizations and graduate students and emerging professionals specialized in historic preservation or heritage conservation to participate in the International Exchange Program. Hosts and interns are selected on a competitive basis. Internships are approximately 12 weeks in length (including orientation and the final program) and take place during the summer between June and August. World Heritage USA hosts all interns in Washington D.C. for a program orientation at the beginning of the summer. Interns then travel to their various host locations where they complete a 10-week preservation-related project designed by the host organization. At the end of the summer, all interns gather in Washington, D.C. for a final debriefing and farewell program.
IEP projects are varied and correspond to the needs and requirements of the host organizations. The host defines the project to be completed; an internship is not an independent research opportunity. Applicants may indicate a preference for the type of project they wish to be assigned, but must be willing to accept any position which may be located anywhere in the world. Assignments are made on the basis of the best match between the proposed project and the applicant’s background and skills.
The cultural heritage field requires collaboration between people and organizations from different countries, communities, and cultures. In our increasingly interconnected and globalized world, organizations and emerging professionals must analyze and solve heritage problems from a variety of perspectives. By participating in the IEP, interns gain international experience at an early stage in their careers, broadening their worldview and preparing them for success in multicultural environments. In addition to strengthening professional heritage skills, the IEP fosters lifelong relationships between participants and their host organizations, creating a global network of heritage professionals. These connections have resulted in continued collaboration between people, communities, and organizations on heritage projects around the world.