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Curriculum - Program Core Course Descriptions

Introductory Courses

[arrow] MUSE 220 Introduction to Museums & Collecting

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.

[arrow] MUSE 221 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.

[arrow] MUSE 224 History & Theory of Exhibitions

How does the exhibition and display of artwork create meanings beyond the individual object? This course begins with the transformation of the Louvre into the first public art museum following the French Revolution. Since then, enormous shifts have occurred in exhibition design as work projected from the walls of the museum, moved outdoors to the space of the street, and eventually went online. We will study an array of exhibition practices and sites, including the temporary exhibition, “the white cube,” museum installations, international biennial exhibitions, and websites. During the class, we will examine how issues such as patronage, avant-gardism, globalization, and identity politics have raised important questions about museums’ missions, practices, and publics.

[arrow] MUSE 225 Museums & the Digital Age

The digital revolution has profoundly influenced how we think about the world around us. Information once available only to experts is now accessible digitally to a much broader audience. Museums, archives, and libraries have adapted to this democratization of knowledge and decentralization of access in myriad ways. As visitors to museums—whether online or onsite—each of us is part of the creation, consumption, and reception of digital information. What does this mean for museums and for us as audiences and consumers of such information? How has the combination of digital technology and social media increased visitors’ abilities for interaction with cultural institutions, their collections, and other visitors? This course will examine the history and evolution of museum practices as they adapt to new technologies and rethink traditional museum practices.

Advanced Courses

[arrow] MUSE 340 Archival Studies

This course introduces students to the role of archives in the construction of a society’s cultural heritage and historical identity. Archives are repositories of a culture’s original documents, both paper and electronic, and they function as a site for the construction, preservation, and dissemination of historical memory, as a source for social responsibility, and as a tool for the understanding of the cultural, social, and political forces that influence events. The course will examine the history of archives, the theory and practice that guide the work of archivists, and examine the basic components of an archival program: including acquisition and appraisal, arrangement and description, preservation and legal and ethical issues related to access to archival records. The class will also cover the transformation of the profession in the digital age, including digital preservation, the work of archival appraisal and collection building in an age of digital proliferation, and archival collection management systems.

[arrow] MUSE 341 Museum Education & Interpretation

This course introduces students to the educational mission of the museum and to the museum’s role in educating citizens for participation in a democratic, pluralistic society. As sites of informal learning, museums have an educational impact on our lives beyond our formal schooling. The course focuses on a wide range of educational activities within museums that address visitors of all ages as individuals and as members of a democratic society, and helps to foster in them a sense of community, civic responsibility, tolerance for multiple viewpoints, and lifelong love of learning. The course examines the institutional shift from a fixed, scholarly approach to exhibiting collections to one that embraces the concept of interpretation, where visitors are encouraged to engage in a variety of experiences, make their own connections with objects and other visitors, and ultimately construct their own meanings.

[arrow] MUSE 354 Exhibition Design

This course approaches exhibition design through historical and theoretical lenses, as well as through practical hands-on activities and assignments. We will examine the history and practice of exhibition design. We will consider the history of collection display, as well as the history of exhibitions through analyzing museum-like institutions, in particular, but not limited to, the art museum. The course then goes on to practical considerations. This includes: outlining the steps necessary for exhibition design, developing an exhibition concept, considering the intended public, securing exhibition space, fundraising in light of budget forecasting, developing an exhibition display model, and writing interpretive material including an exhibition brochure or catalogue essay.

[arrow] MUSE 355 Fundraising, Grant Writing, & Marketing for Nonprofit

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.

[arrow] MUSE 357 Collections Management & 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.

[arrow] MUSE 358 Legal & 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.

[arrow] MUSE 359 Cultural Informatics

This course introduces students to Cultural Informatics, the interdisciplinary field that examines the intersections of information technologies, information science, and cultural information centered in museums, libraries, and archives. Among the topics to be examined are: how information technologies are used in museums, libraries, and archives; how modern information systems have shaped the museum environment; the nature of convergence; the development of digital collections, digital curation, and online exhibitions; and the role and status of the information professional in the museum and cultural organizations. The course is designed around projects, case studies, and readings so that students gain hands-on experience working with information.

[arrow] MUSE 360 Visitor Engagement & Technologies

All of us, as museum visitors, have the capacity to engage with collections and to create meanings as a result of such interaction. This course considers the history and theory of visitor engagement at museums, galleries, and sites of cultural heritage tourism; examines the import of technology into this history; and articulates the role of visitors as “participants” who curate their own experiences. Two key questions will be addressed in this course: 1) How does technology provide a platform for contribution, collaboration, co-creation, and co-opting of experiences among all visitors? and 2) Can technology mediate the best possible experience for visitors?

[arrow] MUSE 489 Research Methods

This class introduces students to the methods of research appropriate for scholarship in the field of Museum Studies. Students will learn how to locate, analyze, assess, critique and conduct research in the field. They will choose the topic of their senior thesis project, develop a clear statement of how that topic will be explored, and construct an annotated bibliography relevant to that topic. This course leads to the development of a proposal for a senior thesis project that is suitable for full implementation in Senior Thesis for Museum Studies.

[arrow] MUSE 490 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.

Mid-20th century Native American mask