UPDATED: My own take on “More on the Future of Museum Studies”

Picture 1I was browsing through my Facebook this morning and came upon a link to a post on the AAM Center for the Future of Museums blog and its resulting comments. The article addresses the relevancy of museum studies degree programs, once again, and the issue of diversity within these programs and the impact on the museum field. While some of the comments about the article were positive, such as, “My graduate program cohort consisted of people from very diverse backgrounds” and “I don’t think that ceasing to hire Museum Studies graduates is any sort of solution to the problem,” there was also this gem, “I fear that the degree programs are not significantly improving the profession or the professional experience of graduates.” Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but obviously as a museum studies graduate student, I felt I needed to add my two-cents.

First of all, graduate programs for museum studies are not the end all, be all, but are often necessary requirements for certain positions, including upper management jobs. I would hope that students enrolled in museum studies graduate programs understand that they need to make an effort outside of the classroom to volunteer or intern with museums at the local level in order to apply their education. My arts and administration program facilitates many such opportunities for us to connect to arts organizations and museums in our state and beyond, and additionally encourages us to widen our network of knowledge. I have done this by taking art history classes, educational courses, and nonprofit management courses. Many of my peers are pursuing a certificate in non-profit management, and are learning many skills in the classroom, including how to create and analyze financial documents, a skill that could potentially take much more time and trial and error to figure out in the field.

Just as with any profession, a higher degree is a great resume builder and does provide the individual with professional development, research skills, context of the field, and an excellent network of peers, in addition to other knowledge and skills I touched upon above. We need those who take the academic route as much as we need those who have always been in the field; we can learn from each other! Practice feeds into research, research into practice, and the practitioner should not fault the researcher for their contribution to the field. The UK is leaps and bounds ahead of the United States in attempting to ground museum research in academic legitimacy.  This is important, for one thing to elevate the museum field research to equal status as art historical research. Gasp! In addition, we need research! We need people who understand how to accomplish it, we need those who know how to communicate it, and we need those who can apply it.

Diversity is a huge issue and one that I am pleased to say I will be tackling in my research. Yes, I do plan to accomplish something relevant through my research, and yes, I am a white female, the majority according to the post, “More on the Future of Museum Studies.”  The point is not to eliminate the hiring of professionals from museum studies programs. The point is for arts and administration, arts management, curatorial degree, and museum studies graduate programs to extend their reach to those from different cultures, ethnicities, and socio-economic positions, in addition to offering a more diverse range of course-work, opportunities for professional development, and expanded skill requirements.


5 responses to “UPDATED: My own take on “More on the Future of Museum Studies”

  1. The need to get outside the program, or off campus in general, really varies from program to program. The Mus Studies concentration in our Arts & Admin program isn’t as hands-on as a pure Mus Studies degree. I know curators who have had graduate level courses in conservation, storage, environmental conditions, etc., something we’ll have to learn on our own or from a museum or gallery off campus.

    I don’t think diversity is a problem unique to Mus Studies programs. Look at our mix, our class alone is 80% female and 80% caucasian.

    There are similar discussions going on about the value of a degree in arts admin, with the same argument of practice versus the degree. At the arts commission where I worked, there were only 1 or 2 people with a masters (in art or education), everyone else learned by working in the arts for 15-20 years. We are not alone in the struggle to determine the relevancy of this somewhat new degree in a very established field.

  2. Hi there – I just followed you over here from the AAM/CFM discussion. All very interesting! So just wanted to drop a note to say how happy I am to find another smart emerging professional, and put your blog in my reader.

  3. Pingback: Where are Museum Studies Graduate Programs Going Wrong? « Colleen Dilenschneider- Know Your Own Bone

  4. Excellent site, keep up the good work

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