In addition to the five required courses listed above, students in the Master of Arts Program take four electives, two of which can be taken outside of Museum Studies Program, in the area of special interest. Students in the Advanced Certificate Program and those pursuing Concentrations in Museum Studies take two electives. Below are the descriptions of some of the electives we offer:
Museum Career Lab (MSMS-GA 3990-002)
Flouty. 2 points.
Navigating the museum field as an emerging professional requires self-advocacy, communication, and an adept understanding of how to leverage a personal network and create a personal brand as a pathway toward career opportunities. Museum Career Lab is a space for cultivating these skills and having honest conversations about challenges experienced in museum work. Students will learn strategies for communicating in a variety of potentially complicated situations, establish professional goals, and will discuss core concepts involved in the practice of being “at work” in museums, including institutional culture, politics, and processes. This course is intended to best serve the needs of students at this pivotal point of their academic and professional career. Seven class meetings will range in formats from group discussions, guest speakers, and individual meetings. Museum Career Lab, like the practice of museums, is emerging and evolving in real-time as the field responds to a changing landscape and is designed to meet the needs of students in the lab. Students will be required to work on their resumes, cover letters, and networking skills. They will also be involved in shaping topics and encouraged to collaborate to format our class meetings collectively.
Decolonizing Museums (MSMS-GA 3330-001)
Anderson, 4 points.
Ethnographic and universal museums are increasingly in crisis. Critical questions about how such museums came to hold their collections, and the colonial conditions of their accumulation are being asked alongside other concerns for appropriate display, collection management and community engagement. Through a lens where decolonization is understood as a call for ethical and equitable transformation of the museum, its objects and its ‘subjects’, this course explores “the museum” as a site of ethnographic inquiry itself, examining it as a social institution embedded in a broader field of cultural heritage that is perpetually under negotiation. We reflect on how museum principles of classification, practices of collection and exhibition, uptake of media, technology, and archiving have influenced the ways in which knowledge has been formed, presented, and represented; and interrogate the role of museums as significant social actors in broad anthropological debates on power, materiality, value, representation, culture, nationalism, circulation, aesthetics, science, history, and “new” technologies. The movement to decolonize the museum is only increasing and in this course we will explore what this means at a theoretical and practical level with a focus on how the museum can respond and indeed transform for the future.
Topics in Museum Studies: Death, Decay, Destruction (MSMS-GA 3330-002)
Franz. 4 points.
This course focuses on museums and other sites of memory as places entangled with loss. Together, we will discuss aspects of the histories, ethics, care, and politics surrounding work such as collections of human remains, conservation work in cemeteries, and purposeful destruction of art installations. As a class, we will engage with theories of dark tourism, nostalgia, moral and ethical philosophy, and existential threats to our world. We will address a wide variety of case studies including ruins that are preserved as decaying sites, ghosts who haunt historic house museums, prison museums as spaces of political activism, and the art practice around sites of nuclear destruction. At the center of the course is a consideration of how we care for ends and endings to address the creative and intellectual space of impermanence within sites of preservation. While these are challenging topics, we will be collaboratively exploring the productive possibilities of these concepts and the place of death, decay, and destruction within our philosophical and cultural traditions.
Museum Education (MSMS-GA 2224)
Ko. 4 points.
This seminar provides an overview of the field of Museum Education. Museum Education is considered in the context of the institution’s relationship to its multiple constituent communities, with application to a broad range of audiences. Among the topics to be considered are learning strategies, teaching from objects, program planning, and assessment, and exhibition interpretation.
Museums and Contemporary Art (MSMS-GA 3335)
Israel. 4 points.
This course investigates historical, theoretical, and practical aspects of the collecting and exhibiting of contemporary art in museums. Topics include curatorial strategies for exhibition and collection development, conservation issues, museums and social activism, and conflicts of interest that arise for museum staff and trustees.
Museums and Communities (MSMS-GA 2228)
Yasha. 4 points.
We have witnessed a rise in civic engagement and social justice programming in museums today. Community, history, and fine arts museums now include civic activism, community participation, and community organizing in their mission and core activities. A movement toward civic engagement and social justice manifests in all aspects of museum practice, including exhibition, education, and collections care. In this seminar, we investigate the theoretical underpinnings of these programs along with their practical implementation and evaluation. We assess museum activism in the context of inequality and racism within the museum itself and community resistance against museums. Students build an understanding of community programming in the context of current literature on the museum in the public sphere, the museum as contact zone, placemaking, and museum ethics. Guest speakers address community-based programming, including the logistics of program development, program evaluation, and program website design. The seminar combines project-based learning with reading, discussion, and writing about theory that motivates and critiques community-based museum programming. Students choose their own final projects. Options include assessing an existing community-based museum program, designing a new museum-based program and developing its website, and writing a seminar paper.
Development, Fund-raising, and Grantsmanship: Funding the 21 st Century Museum (MSMS-GA 2221)
Warwick, 4 points.
In the 21st century museums worldwide need creative fundraising to survive. This course provides a comprehensive overview of museum fundraising practices and an introduction to the skills and processes necessary for effective fundraising. Focusing in particular on the funding environment in the USA – but referencing other international models – topics covered include an overview of sources of funding and types of fundraising (capital campaign; planned giving, benefit events etc.) and a survey of procedures for identifying available funds. Invited guests from a range of museum environments will discuss examples of successful fundraising. Students will complete various examples of fundraising approach (individual solicitations and grant requests, for example) and a comprehensive fundraising strategy for a museum project of their choice.
Museum and the Law (MSMS-GA 2220-001)
Gleason, 4 points.
Legal issues pervade so many aspects of the world of museums. The law can both constrain and enable the behavior of museum staff, administration, and others who work with these cultural organizations. Therefore, it is difficult to work in, for and with museums without some training in or familiarity with the law. In this course, we will examine how museums are affected by a variety of legal regulations, including cultural heritage legislation, intellectual property issues, such as copyright, trademark and moral rights, first amendment and censorship claims, work-place hazards, contracts, and nonprofit and tax laws, such as valuation, charitable transfers, payments in lieu of taxes and the unrelated business income tax. Readings will consist of case law and secondary sources detailing the most pressing legal issues facing different types of museums, and group discussions will be supplemented by mock case studies and negotiation exercises.
Conservation and Collections Management (MSMS-GA 2222-001)
Godfrey & Bruno. 4 points.
As an introduction to museum conservation and collections management, this seminar combines readings, discussions, research, field trips, and practical exercises to provide an understanding of the material concerns and underlying values that drive collections care decisions. It is designed to give students the tools to think critically about collections management and conservation processes. The seminar covers many core functions of museum practice, from acquisition, exhibition, and storage to emergency planning and response. It includes topics in conservation such as examination, conservation science and technical art history as well as preventive conservation measures to manage the museum environment. The seminar also addresses legal and ethical considerations in museum stewardship. Course readings cover the historical and philosophical values that shape the field of conservation, and technical information needed to make conservation and collections management decisions. Students perform readings, discussion, practical and theoretical exercises, short writing assignments and conduct research leading to a term paper.
Museums and Political Conflict (MSMS-GA 2226-001)
Feldman, 4 points.
In contemporary Museum Studies, it is often said that museums are inherently political institutions. But how do politics actually happen in museums? What has "politics" meant for key exhibitions and collections and what avenues of political theory emerge from the museum in general? In this seminar, we will move beyond the general to examine how specific political concepts took shape in historic exhibitions and museum practices from the 1930s to the present. As such, our challenge will be twofold. On the one hand, we will consider how political movements have used the museums as an implement for advancing power and influence. On the other hand, we will consider how museum practices have "taken up" various kinds of politics: how museum objects and officials have engaged and advocated the agendas and outcomes of political parties, governments, policies, revolutions, and elections. Case studies will include: Degenerate Art (1937), Paris World Exhibition (1937), Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads" (1934), The Guggenheim Museum (1959), Yad Vashem (1965), Harlem on my Mind (1969), The Perfect Moment (1990), The Last Act (1994), The Jewish Museum of Bologna (1998), Sensation (1999), The Apartheid Museum (2001), Holocaust Cartoons (2006), among others. Through these case studies, students will examine the museum's role in the public sphere and the process whereby exhibitions contribute to-- or undermined--key aspects of deliberative democracy.
Topics in Museum Studies: Museum Activism (MSMS-GA 3330-004)
Sharp, 4 points.
“Museum Activism” explores the relation between museums and activism by positioning cultural institutions as sites of constant change, negotiation, and struggle. Recognizing that museum practice emerges out of distinct social and political contexts, this course follows critical social movements – such as labor and racial and climate justice – as they relate to museums and ultimately shape museum practice. Focusing on various cases of advocacy, protest, and museum reform since the early twentieth century, the course demonstrates that critical and socially engaged practice is not new, but foundational to the modern museum. We will pursue such questions as: what is “museum activism” and what forms (grassroots, institutional, academic) can it take? How have communities used museums and their practices to push for social change? And how have artists, activists, and cultural workers disrupted cultural institutions and their processes?