Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Award for Young Curators

The Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Young Curators Award is given to a Canadian museum, art gallery, artist-run centre or Indigenous cultural centre to offer internships for young graduates that enhance learning experiences for curatorial careers in the visual arts.

The purpose of this legacy fund is to provide high quality, enhanced learning experiences for young graduates. Proposals may range from formal, mentored internships to informal projects. Innovation combined with hands-on learning opportunities will be a key consideration.

This curatorial opportunity has been made possible thanks to the generous support of artists, collectors and other donors who share Shirley L.Thomson's passions and vision, who admired her determination, and who have benefitted from her great contributions.


The Dr. Shirley L. Thomson Young Curators Award is given to an eligible Canadian institution to offer internships for young graduates that enhance learning experiences for curatorial careers in the visual arts.

Let imaginations soar for the best way to enhance the career development of one or more future curators. As few rules as possible have been set to encourage innovative thinking. Projects are not subject to a minimum or maximum duration: they must simply focus on enhancing young graduates' learning experiences.

The curatorial intern must be:

  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident legally entitled to work in Canada;
  • Not more than 30 years old;
  • A recent graduate (within the past 24 months) from a museum studies program and/or arts studies, curatorial, conservation, arts administration or related program from a recognized university or college or other recognized program (not necessarily in Canada);
  • Willing to commit to the full duration of the internship;
  • Free from another full-time job at the time of the program;
  • Be available to participate in the next national CMA National Conference and make a presentation on its project/experience (financing required to attend must be included in the application).


The award, up to $15,000, may be for one project or split between 2 proposals based on their objectives and financial models.

The curatorial intern(s) will also benefit by participating in career exchanges and networking opportunities at the CMA National Conference.

The Canadian Museums Association will pay up to $15,000 towards the creation of the internship(s), including intern stipend, as well as any travel, materials, and expenses to attend the CMA National Conference and other approved expenses.


November 15, 2021

The Award is presented every two years. (2022, 2024, 2026 ...)


As mentioned, there are few required criteria to facilitate innovation.

Applications will be accepted only from museums, art galleries, artist-run centres and Indigenous cultural centres which meet the following criteria:

  • Must be a not-for-profit institution in Canada engaged in whole or part in the visual arts.
  • Demonstrated commitment to the visual arts (historical or contemporary) and to high professional standards in museum practice.
  • Must be a CMA institutional member in good standing, and active in the museum or the artist-run center profession.
  • A significant research capacity in the visual arts and commitment to curatorial development.
  • Able to provide the intern(s) with necessary encouragement, supervision, work plan, orientation, training, mentorship and support during the internship.
  • Participate in the award promotion to ensure dissemination of this project (pre-, during and post-internship).This may or may not include contributing an article to Muse magazine.
  • Use open and fair recruitment methods to select a candidate meeting the eligibility criteria, and meet all applicable employment laws.
  • Ensure the participation of the intern at the next occurring CMA National Conference (related costs must be included in your budget request, regardless of project completion date).
  • Successful applicants may not reapply in the succeeding year.

All applications will be juried by a panel of experienced and senior museum curatorial professionals in the visual arts field. Members of the jury are not eligible to be applicants or to be in the employment of an institution that applies to the Award.

All decisions by the jury will be final.

Interns are recruited by the approved employers. Employers must recruit for positions through a fair and open selection process (i.e. open competitions and unbiased adjudication of eligible candidates—see guidelines above). In addition to the institution's own recruitment tools, the internship opportunities must be posted on the CMA's online Job Board.

Nomination instructions

Complete the nomination form and submit it to awards@museums.ca. The nomination must include the following information:

  • Project proposal — Include the working title and a summary of the proposal.
  • Clearly defined project objectives, methodology, and measurable outcomes as well as the job description and work plan.
  • A comprehensive budget proposal showing the allocation of funding from the Shirley Thomson Award (maximum $15,000) as well as other sources of support (confirmed or proposed must be indicated). The applicant's commitment to raise additional resources/funding to increase the value of this internship will be taken into consideration but will not be an exclusive factor. Quality of the learning experience will be the guiding principle.
  • The duration and location of the curatorial development project, the number of young curators engaged, travel and other costs. There is no minimum or maximum duration required but priority will be given to applications that can expand this work place mentorship in creative and innovative ways.
  • There is no minimum or maximum duration required but priority will be given to applications that can expand this work place mentorships.
  • Level of mentoring, orientation and supervision during the internship. The internship should have appropriate supervision and professional support (training, coaching, encouragement, mentoring, follow-ups, performance evaluation, etc.)
  • The name and curriculum vitae of the key supervisor/mentor/project leader.
  • Skill assessment and development plan (to help support transition to job market following the internship).
  • Ability for the intern to make professional contacts during the internship.
  • Evidence of the professional standards, and commitment of the institution.
  • A balanced recruitment process.
  • Complete financial estimates and coherent justification including the employer's financial and in-kind contribution.
  • Level of institution's involvement in CMA and the professional museum community.