Minor: Museum Studies
Effective Fall 2009
The primary goal of the academic minor in museum studies is to teach students how museums work, both in historical and contemporary contexts. Doing so involves learning to critically engage the historical, social, cultural, artistic and scientific dimensions of heritage, both tangible and intangible, within the museum. The museum studies academic minor seeks to foster "museum literacy" by introducing students to the processes by which meaning is inscribed upon objects within the context of museums and to the roles museums, broadly defined, play in society. Institutions, objects and collections, and society thus form the curriculum's conceptual foci.
Objects and Collections — The artifact, collections of artifacts maintained by museums, and the information associated with them:
the nature of objects; learning from objects; disciplinary perspectives on the object; the role of museum artifacts in research; conservation; connoisseurship; collectors and collecting; tangible and intangible culture; how objects acquire their meaning; the real vs. the represented; exhibit design (how museums choose to display objects)
Institutions — The wide variety of organizations that collect and display artifacts for education, research, or entertainment:
the history of museums; administration, governance, and ethics; non-profit and for profit models of museums; national vs. local museums; museums in their various forms (i.e., science centers, zoos, botanical gardens, history centers, art museums, themed experiences); the relationship of museums to libraries and archives ; rationalizing the museum within society; museum design and architecture; assessment; technology in museums; organization of and access to museum information; professional associations at the state, national and international levels
Society — The audiences that museums engage, individually or collectively, and the communities whose cultures are represented in museum displays:
the role of museums in society; the representation of ethnicity, gender, race, and culture in museums; the role of museums in nation building; public culture; repatriation and debates over the ownership of cultural properties and cultural heritage; visitor studies; learning in museums; defining the museum experience; audience and visual perception studies
Investigations into the interrelationships that exist between these three foci will add to the wealth of material addressed in the curriculum. Indeed, some of the most interesting issues exist at the intersections of these foci.
Students will derive multiple secondary benefits from this course of study - new content knowledge, an enhanced ability to conduct research in one's academic discipline, a new means by which to understand other cultures and societies, a heightened awareness of the points of view afforded through multidisciplinary study and understanding the relationship of how one's discipline relates to other disciplines, an increased capacity for critical thinking and observation, and the personal empowerment derived from becoming more informed users of cultural assets, especially those available at the University of Michigan .
Despite being situated in the College of LSA, the undergraduate minor has been designed to accommodate concentrators from other schools and colleges at the university. While it has been broadly conceived, the museum studies academic minor will hold special appeal to students concentrating in Anthropology, Classical Archaeology, History, History of Art, American Culture, and Communication Studies, where students are first introduced to these topics.
Prerequisites to the Academic Minor
None for the academic minor per se, although individual courses elected to meet the requirements of the academic minor may have course prerequisites.
Students will be eligible to declare their desire to pursue the Museum Studies academic minor upon completion of MUSEUMS 301 (sophomore standing).
Academic Minor Program
The academic minor requires at least 18 credits as stated:
- Core Courses: MUSEUMS 301 and 401.
MUSEUMS 301 and MUSEUMS 401 provide a theoretical/historical overview of museums as examined through the constructs of institutions, objects and collections, and society as well as an examination of the critical issues confronting museums in the contemporary world.
- Museum-Based Practicum: MUSEUMS 409 (Practicum in Museums) will be available to students who have declared the academic minor in Museum Studies. MUSEUMS 409 establishes a critical bridge between theory and practice and - through the use of mentoring, class discussion, and engagement with the principles of reflective practice -- will assure that students draw the most from this experiential requirement. Based on the premise that theoretical grounding is necessary for a successful practicum experience, students will not be allowed to seek MUSEUMS 409 credit for museum-based practical experiences undertaken before completing MUSEUMS 301. Students interested in acquiring additional museum experience may repeat MUSEUMS 409 for a total of six credits. In such instances the second three credits may replace one of the required three elective courses.
- Electives: Three elective courses chosen in consultation with, and approved by, the museum studies faculty advisor. These courses are selected from designated 300- and 400-level courses in the three thematic areas (institutions, objects and collections, and society)of the program. Students must elect one course from at least two of the three areas.
- Objects & Collections
A complete list of current electives can be found on the Museum Studies website.
The electives offer students the opportunity to take courses to further their knowledge of institutions, objects and collections, and society in many departments in the university. Those students selecting courses not directly focused on the museum will have the opportunity to make critical ties back to the field through the completion of mentored writing assignments. To receive elective credit for a course that is not explicitly museum-focused, upon receiving prior approval a student will be required to write a brief (5-page) rationale paper that addresses the relationship between the content of the course and issues considered in the two museum studies core courses, MUSEUMS 301 and 401. The academic staff of the Museum Studies Program will evaluate these papers.
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