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, it investigates various types of museums, ranging from natural history, anthropology, science and technology, history, and art. The course explores the governance and operations of museums in the areas of collections management, collections care, and gallery/museum management. The course also analyzes the role and function of the museum, considering traditional concerns such as: professional ethics; the role of the museum in constructing, defining, and saving the national heritage; and the roles of the museum as collecting institution, research institution, conservation/preservation institution, and as an educational institution. It also focuses on issues of contemporary concern, such as: the evolving relationship between the museum and its public; the museum’s educational function versus its entertainment function; and the evolving responsibilities of the museum to its public and the cultural heritage. 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 quarter.
Art Materials: Panel Painting
This is a lecture-studio/lab course on materials and tools, supports and techniques of inorganic art materials. Topics include the application, development and manufacture of artists’ materials: glass, ceramics, sculpture, gilding, pigments, and patinas. This course includes studio reconstructions of masterworks, lectures, and library research.
Art Materials: Photography
This is a lecture-studio/lab course on materials and tools, supports and techniques of works of art on paper and other organic art materials. Topics include the application, development and manufacture of artists’ materials: drawings, watercolors, furniture, textiles, prints and photographs. This course includes studio reconstructions of masterworks, lectures, and library research.
Conservation of Cultural Materials
This course examines the philosophies, ethics, art conservation methods and principles of collection management. An overview of deterioration characteristics 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.
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.
Display and Exhibition Design
This course examines the history and practice of display and exhibition design. It considers the history of display as found in a variety of private collections, and the history of exhibitions with the development of museum-like institutions. It investigates various types of displays and exhibitions, ranging from natural history, anthropology, science and technology, history, and art; and compares these to commercial displays at large international fairs. The course explores the development of a display and exhibition budget, and the development of display and exhibition concepts in light of budgetary constraints. The course also considers the professional parameters of display and exhibition design, particularly within institutions. It also considers ethical issues related to display and exhibition material. It focuses on issues of contemporary concern, such as: the relationship of the display to the intended public; and educational function versus entertainment or promotional function. The course includes field trips to local institutions and collections throughout the quarter.
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 quarter, 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.
Forensic Investigation of Art and Research Methods
This course introduces research methods and the examination of artistic and historic materials within a humanities oriented forum in which students present and debate published research on several famous case studies including: the Shroud of Turin, the Getty Kouros, and the Han van Meegeren forgeries of Vermeer paintings. Emphasis will be placed on using resources from the interdisciplinary fields of art history, art and materials science supported by laboratory exercises in which the application of instrumental techniques, experimental design and the identification of materials is demonstrated.
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.