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Museum Studies

The Breakdown

Many people consider museums hallowed spaces. They are quiet places that allow for personal reverie and reflection. What’s more, they educate and expose people to cultural touchstones, important ideas and historic relics. If you’ve always been drawn to museums and endeavor to be the person behind the content, then this is the field for you!

Museum studies programs typically ask their students to examine the role and place of museums within society. In addition, they address the various facets that are involved in creating and maintaining museums. This includes everything from administration and acquisition to exhibition and preservation. A handful of programs also integrate practical learning into the experience, requiring their undergrads to participate in an internship with a museum.

While museum studies is generally more the provenance of graduate study, there are a select number of colleges and universities that offer the discipline to their undergrads. Some of these schools provide a full-blown major while others simply offer minors or certificate programs. It is also common for interested students to pair museum studies with a major in art history, history, education, English, anthropology or one of the sciences.

As a museum studies major, you’ll need to be a jack of all trades – part researcher, part teacher, part public relations expert. Indeed, you will require a potent combination of keen intellect and social savvy. Moreover, you should understand how to shape information into compelling and comprehensible blurbs and bites. And, of course, you should be quick to champion access to priceless works of art and artifacts.

Nuts and Bolts

Museum studies students enroll in an interesting cross-section of classes. Possible courses might include: Introduction to Historic Preservation, American Culture and the Public Sector, Writing for Non-Profits, Introduction to Marketing, Public Archeology, Museum Exhibitions, Museum Methods, Cultural Anthropology and Introduction to Native American Art.

Decisions, Decisions

The vast majority of museum studies students are fascinated by different aspects of culture and how the public can interact with said aspects. Therefore, many undergrads also might want to study art history, history, architecture, conservation, elementary education, arts education, secondary education, studio art, anthropology, classical studies, radio/television/film, marketing, comparative literature and romance languages.

What's Next

It’s probably not terribly surprising that many undergrads who choose museum studies hope to eventually work in museums some day. Fortunately, that’s certainly a possibility with this major. Recent grads are likely to find administrative positions (within museums) and a lucky few might even land a coveted curatorial assistant job. However, to advance in the ranks (say become a full-blown curator or art historian) a graduate degree is necessary. In addition, arts education is another popular and fulfilling route. This path could entail outreach or coordinating tours, lectures, workshops or classes. A handful of museum studies majors also become archivists, helping to catalogue, analyze and exhibit valuable objects and collections. Finally, some museum studies majors might eventually become conservators, restoring and repairing art and artifacts. Conservation also usually requires an advanced degree as well.


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