The museum studies minor provides students with a foundation in the history and practice of the museum as an institution and in the history, theory, and practice of collecting, exhibiting, and preserving the cultural heritage that defines the purpose and function of the museum. Courses cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to contemporary museology: the history of museums and collecting, the technical study of art and materials, the history and theory of exhibitions, interactive design, public history, the rise of the museum profession, legal and ethical concerns, and conservation.
Notes about this minor:
This minor is closed to students majoring in museum studies.
Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).
Introduction to Museums and 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. 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 semester, 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
Choose three of the following:*
Monuments and Memory
Monuments are physical objects that were constructed to help us remember the past, but a deeper analysis reveals that the relationship between monuments and the memories they embody is complex and changes over time. We will tackle the process of memorializing, the monuments that result, and seek greater insight into the arguments these artifacts make about the past, the present, and our place in the world.
America’s National Parks
The National Parks are some of America's most treasured and spectacular landscapes, but even these wild places are the product of historical forces. In this class, we will explore the history of America's National Parks, and use these spaces to unpack the relationship between Americans, their land, and their history.
Oral history collects memories and personal commentaries of historical significance through recorded interviews. There are few opportunities for historical research that are more satisfying or more challenging than oral history. In this class, we will learn about oral history methods, techniques, and ethics. We will read, listen to, and watch some of the finest examples of the genre. Then we will go out and add to the world's understanding of its past by conducting oral histories of our own. For their final project in this course, students will work in teams to produce a podcast based on their own interview(s).
Museums and History
Many more people learn history from museums than from textbooks. What is it that is so special about encountering the real thing in a museum? Why are Dorothy's Ruby Slippers the most visited artifact in the National Museum of American History? Do history museums themselves have an important history? Join us as we investigate the connections between our history, our museums, and the material artifacts that tell historical stories.
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.
Museums and 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. The course has no pre-requisite and is open to students of all majors.
Introduction to 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.
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. The course has no prerequisite and is open to students of all majors.
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.
* At least one elective course must be a MUSE course and one must be a HIST course.