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Overview

Imagine running a renowned museum that had the size and grandeur of a palace. Your days are spent gazing upon masterful paintings, curating brilliant new works of genius, and on occasion, getting to decide exactly where that larger-than-life Matisse should go. To top it off, you wine and dine at art openings, you can speak for hours on just one of Jackson Pollock’s paint splatters, and you’ve come to see the world as one great expanse of white exhibit space. All right, snap out of it. As a museum studies major, you’ll get an insider’s view of how a museum works and who really runs the show. You’ll learn about the roles curators, directors, conservators, collection managers, and exhibit designers play in creating exhibitions and presenting artwork to the public. There are various types of museums, from natural history to photography to history to art, and you’ll take a look at how their operations differ. Technology is playing a larger and larger role in the museum world, and you’ll examine how best to use this element to reach audiences and expedite museum processes. And you’ll gain an understanding of the history of museums—how they began, where they’re going, and why. This major may not feel quite as luxurious as spending a long, rainy Saturday wandering the great halls of a museum, but you may someday be a crucial factor in helping other people do just that.

There’s a lot of nitty-gritty that goes into managing a museum, including cataloging, research, and fundraising. You’ll be primed on all of it, plus you’ll study the role museums play in education, how various educational goals are set and achieved, and how museums can best reach their audiences. Preservation is integral to the survival of museums worldwide, and you’ll learn how to evaluate the condition of works of art, how to properly store and care for them, and how to transport them (beyond carefully!).

This course of study is highly interdisciplinary, and your course work will be drawn from the departments of art, history, education, and philosophy, to name a few. In fact, some colleges offer museum studies as a certificate or concentration instead of a major.

SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Collecting in History

  • Collections and Curation

  • Fundraising and Human Resources

  • History of Museums

  • Information Technology

  • Museology

  • Museum Education

  • Museum Environment

  • Museum Exhibition

  • Museum Planning & Management

  • Preservation

  • Public Programs


HIGH SCHOOl PREPARATION

You can prepare for a major in museum studies by getting a very strong foundation in humanities courses such as history, English, art, and music. Language courses often include sections on art and culture, making them a great way to learn about art outside the U.S. A career in the museum world requires excellent communication skills, so take courses that will strengthen your writing, reading, and speaking abilities. And one of the best ways to prepare for this major is to visit as many museums as you can. Then spend an afternoon at your favorite one studying how the exhibitions are put together, which artworks were chosen, and how you feel based on the created environment.