Curriculum - Program Core Course Descriptions
Introduction to Museums and Collections
This course examines the history, theory, ideology, and practice of collecting within the institutional context of the museum. It considers the formation of the modern museum, and focusing on the American context, investigates the function and varieties of museums, ranging from natural history, anthropology, science and technology, history, and art. The course explores the history of the museum and its evolution institutionally, ideologically, and experientially. The course also considers the operations of museums from accessioning through deaccessioning, examining museum management, collections management and collections care. The course also explores museum governance and the professional ethics and legal constraints that affect museum professionals. The course examines how a museum carries out its mission of public education through its collections and exhibitions, as well as through its educational programs and community outreach and visitor studies. Current issues in the museum world are also considered, including: the museum’s educational function versus its entertainment function; the problems of staying solvent in an era of diminishing governmental and corporate subsidies; deaccessioning collections to support the museum operations; issues of art theft and repatriation (ranging from colonial era and Nazi era plunder, the disposition of human remains and sacred objects, and illicit trafficking); the evolving responsibilities of the museum to its public and the cultural heritage; and the rise of the virtual museum. Throughout the quarter, the course examines museums and their practices through the perspectives of colonialism, nationalism, class, race, age, gender, and ethnicity. The course includes field trips to local museums and collections throughout the semester.
Introduction to Public History
Public history is using the research-based methods and techniques of historians to conduct historical work in the public sphere. If you’ve gone to a museum, conducted an oral history, researched your old house, or learned from an interpreter at a park or historic site, you’ve seen public history in action. This course will introduce students to the wide variety of careers in public history, and will examine the challenges and opportunities that come with “doing” history in, with, and for the public.
Historic Photographic Processes
This is a studio-based class in which student recreate a number of different nineteenth century photographic processes. Students will explore the history of photographic technology through use of primary sources and hands on projects. The chemistry and deterioration of the materials will be reviewed through the use of primary texts, projects and discussion.
History and Theory of Exhibitions
Art exhibitions are organized around a curatorial premise, a statement that articulates an idea allowing for the selection of work included in an exhibition. This course begins with an overview of exhibition history, starting with the transformation of the Louvre into the first public art museum following the French Revolution, where art history, a discipline developed in the 19th century, was enlisted to organize exhibition. The course then examines the proliferation of types of exhibitions that accompanies modernism, up to the present, paying close attention to the curatorial premise animating the exhibitions.
This course examines the history and practice of exhibition design. It reviews the history of exhibitions within the development of museum-like institutions. In this course the following aspects of exhibition design are considered: curatorial premise or theme, exhibition development timeline, exhibition site, contracts and contractual obligations, budgets and fundraising, publicity material, didactic material, and exhibition design. The course includes field trips to local institutions and collections throughout the semester.
Legal and Ethical Issues for Collecting Institutions
This course presents an overview of the legal and ethical issues that govern the institutions and personnel involved in collecting cultural resources. Collecting institutions are governed by national, state, and local laws that define how facilities and collections are used and this course will consider them, as well as the larger social and historical context out of which they developed. The course will consider the evolution of the museum as a public institution and how the legal system increasingly defined minimum standards for maintaining collections, the facilities in which they are housed, and guaranteeing public access; in addition legal standards for the collection will be studied, including definitions of ownership, what this means in terms of intellectual property rights, copyright, reproduction (traditional and electronic), and deaccessioning/disposal. These will be studied within the context of the society within which the institution functions. The course will also study the development of national and international ethical standards and will examine the codes of behavior that govern the personal and professional conduct of museum professionals and the practices that comprise conflicts of interest. Ethical standards for collecting institutions will also be considered, particularly those that address the responsibilities to a collection, the ethics of acquisition, the question of illicit or stolen material, the issues of human remains and objects of sacred significance, and repatriation. Attention will be paid to the changes in society that made these issues critical for collecting institutions.
Collections Management and Museum Administration
This course presents an overview of the administration and management of museums and their collections. The course examines the governance structure of museums, focusing on personnel responsible for their administration, curation and education, and operations, as well as on the mission statement and policies they determine. The course also details the management of collections, including the development of a collections policy, management of that policy, documentation and record keeping, acquisitions, and the creation/management of exhibitions. Finally, the course considers collections care or preventive conservation, looking at both the facility and collections. Throughout the semester, legal and ethical issues pertaining to museums and their collections will be emphasized.
Fundraising, Grant Writing, and Marketing for Nonprofit Institutions
This course examines the growing autonomy of collecting institutions as they are cut off from various forms of governmental sponsorship and public subsidy and their subsequent needs for raising money from outside, non-traditional sources. The course looks at issues of needs assessment, budgeting, and strategic planning. It focuses on the design and implementation of effective fundraising campaigns, as well as on the organization and writing of successful grant proposals. It also considers the importance of marketing to overall institutional success.
Interactive Design for Museums
This is a project-based course which explores the intersection of interactive design and museum education. Interactive museum programs have the potential to engage museum visitors by encouraging creative exploration, independent interpretation, and deeper understanding. Students will learn how to make the study of material culture more interesting and approachable by creating interactive projects for both the museum and the internet. Students will learn to incorporate educational outcomes into engaging learning experiences for museums.
Conservation and Analysis of Cultural Materials
This course examines the philosophies, ethics, and analytical methods of art conservation. An overview of deterioration mechanisms and conservation strategies for a variety of materials including: stone, glass, ceramic, wood, paper, new media, metals, textiles, oil paintings and archaeological materials will be presented. Analytical methods for material analysis and authentication will be reviewed. This course has a laboratory component in which students will learn pigment analysis and the identification of print and photographic processes.
Senior Thesis in Museum Studies
The Senior Thesis in Museum Studies is the final requirement in the degree program. Students will formulate a research question that will entail some physical interaction with objects, they will conduct the appropriate research to address that question, and will present their results in both written and oral formats. The course provides students the opportunity to develop their research and hand skills and to share the results with the department faculty and students.