Museum staff can help you incorporate objects from the collections into teaching, either in the museum or in your classroom.
The Beneski Museum houses the College’s geology, paleontology, mineralogy, osteology and anthropology collections, which can be a vital curricular resource for faculty across many disciplines.
Investigating and analyzing objects as part of class work:
- encourages deep critical thinking
- develops observational acuity
- sparks curiosity about new areas of study
- provides a focal point for lively group discussion
The 200,000 specimens in the collection are rich examples of primary-source materials, some of which are well-documented in the scientific literature of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Most easily accessed are the 1,700 specimens on display, but faculty can also request the use of specimens housed in collections storage. Museum staff can answer questions about the history of collecting at Amherst College and can provide acquisition and usage information about particular specimens. Museum specimens can be made available for use within the museum or can be transported to Amherst College classrooms.
During the past decade, the interdisciplinary nature of the museum has lent itself to faculty across a wide range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) art, biology, botany, economics, environmental studies, film & media studies, geology, history, mathematics, paleontology and world languages.
Services for Faculty from All Disciplines
Review and Select Objects for Teaching and/or Research
To use specimens for classroom or lab demonstrations, or to review and select objects in storage and evaluate their metadata, contact Hayley Singleton Head of Collections and Operations.
Arrange a Class Visit to the Museum
Take advantage of all the Beneski Museum has to offer by making it part of your college experience.
Use the Facilities for Study and Research
Since the Beneski building is home to both the natural history museum and Amherst's Geology Department, students move seamlessly between state-of-the-art teaching labs and the museum's three floors of exhibits.
Tables within the galleries provide a unique atmosphere for all fields of academic work.
Students from all Five Colleges are encouraged to use the museum collections for research projects. Contact Museum Collections, to explore this opportunity.
Become a Museum Docent
Amherst students are invited to apply for museum docent positions. Our student docents monitor the museum during open hours and special events, and act as a source of information for all visitors.
As a docent, you'll work directly with the greater Amherst community of alumni, parents, prospective students, PK–12 school groups, adult learning groups and general visitors of all ages. During training, you'll learn about the nature of scientific inquiry, adult learning theory and practice (andragogy), child leaning theory and practice (pedagogy), absorb many facts about the specimens on display, and get to know the ins and outs of the museum's nine collections: vertebrate paleontology, invertebrate paleontology, paleobotany, ichnology (dinosaur footprints), mineralogy, meteorites, anthropology, osteology and taxidermy.
To apply, send an email explaining your interest and background to Alfred Venne, Museum Educator.
Are you a first- or second-year Amherst College (AC) student who would like to spend your summer on campus working closely with Beneski Museum professional staff to explore your interest in Natural History Collections and Science Communication? A summer internship may be perfect for you! Each summer a limited number of internships for first and second year AC students will be awarded. The program runs for 8 weeks beginning second week of June. Applications normally open the start of the spring semester. First consideration shall be given to applications received by Friday, March 1st each year.
Under the supervision of members of the museum staff, summer interns will gain experience operating a science museum, assisting with educational programming, and caring for museum collections. Aside from docent duties, other projects within the museum will be available as listed below.
- Working as an Educational Docent during public hours
- Staffing museum events
- Helping with museum upkeep
- Data entry
Individual projects may include:
- Education/Curriculum PK - Adult
- Designing educational programming for visiting groups
- Designing educational programming for individual and family visitors
- Assisting with research on the Beneski’s collections
- Assisting with curation and collections management
- Creating social media content
No experience in Natural History is required, but a positive attitude, curiosity about the world and museums, and attention to detail is a must.
- Start date: 2nd week of June - End date the first weekend of August.
- Tuesday-Sunday during museum hours, 30-40 hours/week for 8 weeks, $440/week
- Fully funded campus board plan, which include on-campus housing and 2 meals per day at Val
- Can non-U.S. citizens/residents apply? Yes
- Can I apply to the program if I am not an Amherst College student? No
- Can a student submit an application after the deadline? Yes, but priority is given to first round applications.
- When are decisions made and how will I be notified?Applications will be reviewed in mid to late March. Email notifications will be sent out late March or early April.
Successful applicants will work closely with museum staff on meaningful projects and gain experience in the operation of a mid-sized museum. Interns will also gain insight into the strategies for educational development, community programming, and scientific preservation through diverse education initiatives and cutting-edge preservation work
In addition to gaining specialized experience within museum departments and an understanding of each department’s role within the museum, interns will get the opportunity to participate in intern excursions. Interns will visit local and regional museums to meet other museum professionals and critically observe how museums work
The Beneski Museum supports Pre-K–16 field experiences, complementing school curricula and encouraging students to have fun while learning.
Our educational staff stands ready to work with teachers and administrators to develop pre-visit "scaffolding," day-of-visit onsite support, and post-visit follow-up activities for Pre-K–12 school groups by providing flexible options for building an inspiring field experience that meets appropriate educational goals.
We request that all Pre-K–16 school groups schedule a group visit in advance. The museum offers three types of group visits: guided, self-guided and "hybrid" visits. Consider the type of visit that makes the most sense for your group, and explore our field guide selection below.
Field Guides: All Ages
Field Guides: Elementary School
- Fossil Discovery (Kindergarten)
- Carnivores & Herbivores (Early Elementary)
- How Does it Move? (Early Elementary)
- Discovering Paleontology (Upper Elementary)
Field Guides: Middle School
- Dinosaur Footprints: Tracks and Traces (5th Grade and beyond)
- Vertebrate Hunting
- Illustrating the Past (5th Grade & beyond)
Field Guides: High School & Beyond
With special thanks to the following organizations for helping create these materials and allowing us to share them: Amherst Public Schools, Brown University, Four Rivers Charter School, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, McAuliffe Regional CPS, Mount Holyoke College, Northampton Montessori School, Northampton Public Schools, Smith College, University of Massachusetts, Franklin Pierce College and the Williamsburg School.