What You Learn

The Museum Studies flexible, multidisciplinary curriculum allows students to build on the foundational knowledge presented in core courses and to select electives and internship experiences that meet their professional goals.

Students may focus on training paths such as education, exhibit development, administration, collections, or curatorial practices and interpretation with particular strengths in public art, Native American representation, African-American history, and cultural heritage studies. They can also select classes with a thematic focus such as civic engagement and representation. Students can also take a range of classes in preparation for the varied responsibilities of small museums and historic sites. Cross-listed classes in anthropology, history, philanthropic studies, fine arts, and non-profit management allow students to deepen their knowledge of topics such as public history, heritage studies, oral history, material culture, grant writing, fiscal management, and institutional advancement.

Hands-on learning and community engagement are hallmarks of our program. IUPUI is an urban university within walking distance of half a dozen museums and an easy commute to many others throughout Indianapolis. We have close connections with area museums, and our classes incorporate museum projects, applied research, and guest lecturers to help students connect concepts, theories, and methods to real-world practice. Museums also provide internship opportunities and job networking for students in the program.

Museum Studies Graduate Curriculum

Museum Studies Graduate Course Descriptions

MSTD A503: Introduction to Museum Studies (3 cr.) This survey of museology introduces students to the history of museums and to debates on the philosophical nature of museums and their roles in society. The course covers the types and definitions of museums, traces the history of museums, discusses contemporary museum practice, and examines current issues in the museum profession.

MSTD A505: Museum Methods (3 cr.) [Note:MuseumMethodsmaybe used as a core course for the Graduate Certificate. Master’s students with little or no experience in the museum field may use A505 as an elective option, but must have prior approval from the Museum Studies Director in consultation with the student’s academic advisor. 
This survey of museum practice introduces students to methods, skills, and resources in three areas of museum work: artifacts, interpretation, and organizational administration, as well as to the ethical ramifications of these methods.

MSTD A508: Museum Internship (1 - 6 cr.)  Authorization of the instructor required. An arranged learning experience in museum work appropriate to individual career goals focusing on an aspect of museum practice and working with a museum mentor. May be repeated.  Prerequisites: A503 and two other Museum Studies graduate courses or consent of the instructor required.

MSTD A509: Applied Research in Museums
An interdisciplinary research practicum conducted in collaboration with museum studies students, faculty and museum partners. The course provides students with an opportunity to work in conjunction with museum professionals to conduct research and carry out public projects in museum settings. The course may focus on exhibition planning,  public programs and symposia, curatorial projects, and national collaborations.

MSTD A510: Museum Education (3 cr.) This survey of museum education introduces students to a variety of professional skills through exercises, projects, museum visitor observation, and in-museum classes. It covers education theory most central to museum practice,  the duties of museum educators, and current issues in museum education.

MSTD A511: Object –Based Learning
This class is about objects, broadly construed, and our relationship to them in and out of museum settings. An object is much more than its history,  its provenance, or its material composition. Objects form the basis of most museum collections, which in turn, inform the educational perspectives and experiences offered to visitors. But, if an artifact is safely nestled in its museum resting place, does it matter to anyone? Why should we care about things in museums anyway? The use and interpretation of these collections supports a wide-array of learning experiences and interactions. This course will explore the relationship between the object and the viewer from an educational, interpretive perspective.  The class will examine the multiple ways that people learn from and with objects in museums using a range of disciplines including education,  history, semiotics, material culture, anthropology, and psychology. We will investigate the strategies needed to fully support learning from and with objects in the museum setting and consider how visitors learn through their transactions with objects.

MSTD A512: Exhibit Planning and Design (3 cr.) This course offers an introduction to museum exhibit planning and design through an integration of theory and practice.  This class introduces students to exhibit development, design process, and evaluation, and to a variety of professional skills through hands-on exercises, exhibit critiques, museum observations, and in-museum visits. Students learn to build effective design documents, and how exhibit team members contribute to the exhibit design and planning process.

MSTD A513:  Curatorial Practices 
Curatorial practice today reaches far beyond the direct actions of a museum’s chief curator. Staff across the institution, as well as visitors, donors, artists, and outside scholars can also engage in the curatorial project. In order to better understand contemporary curatorial activities, this seminar-style course will examine current and historical curatorial practices in museums and other exhibition contexts. Theoretical texts will establish a framework in which we will situate our exploration of practical matters. Case studies will introduce a range of approaches to the storytelling practices involved in curatorial work.  Over the course of the semester students will also develop and execute their own curatorial project.

MSTD A514: Museums and Technology (3 cr.) This course surveys the growing use of technology in museums. It examines applications for information management in collections, conservation science, and archives.  It examines critically the use of technology in the service of education both in exhibit contexts and in the variety of educational programs and web-based dissemination of knowledge.

MSTD A516: Collections Care and Management (3 cr.) A survey of techniques for the management and care of collections in museums. It covers documentation, management of collections, processes, administrative functions, risk management, and ethical and legal issues. The course also covers the physical care and conservation of collections.

MSTD A517: Preventive Conservation 
This course offers a theoretical and practical investigation of preventive conservation which aims to eliminate or modify conditions that encourage deterioration. Preventive conservation is the broadest technique by which preservation of museum objects and collections is achieved.  Emphasis is placed on measures that prevent or reduce the potential for damage and loss. Central to preventive conservation methodology, topics include handling procedures, proper storage, environmental management, agents of deterioration, risk analysis, emergency preparedness and planning.

MSTD A518: Museums and Audiences (3 cr.) This course examines the ways museums seek to better understand their audiences, serve them more effectively, and strive to reach new audiences. The course looks at a broad range of visitor studies and the ways in which museums and audiences interact.

MSTD A521:  Museum Theatre and Live Interpretation
  The purpose of this course is to provide an in-depth look at the use of museum theatre and live interpretation in museum settings to advance the educational mission and nature of museums. The class examines theatrical techniques, program development and management, and interpretation approaches for a wide variety of museum exhibits and
audiences.  Students will observe, develop,  and implement original museum theatre and interpretation projects as a synthesis and practical application of the knowledge gained. The course will include field visits and observations of various techniques in museum theatre and live interpretation.

MSTD A531: Critical Approaches to Museum Practice
Museums are community resources that present content through a variety of formats ranging from text-rich labels based on collections of artifacts and artwork, to engaging displays and activity-based interdisciplinary experiences and exhibitions. As museums grapple with their changing role within communities,  the format and orientation of education programs and exhibitions is changing. Critical literacy and critical pedagogy approaches offer museums a new strategy for achieving civic engagement. This class examines the potential of applying these pedagogical methods to curatorial practices, interpretation, museum education, and exhibition development as a way to focus on engaging the visitor with artifacts,  opening up civic discourse, and promoting deeper connection to community.

MSTD/ANTH A540: Issues in Cultural Heritage
This course explores a variety of issues related the stewardship of cultural property on a local, national, and global scale. Through readings, case studies, discussion,  and a semester-long project,  students will explore ethical,  economic, legal, political,  and pragmatic issues related to tangible and intangible heritage and will increase their understanding of the practices and processes of cultural heritage management.

MSTD A548/HIST H548: Museum Administration / Historical Administration (3 cr.)(note:Itwillbe offered annually by either Museum Studies or History (with the respective MSTD or HIST course number but either course number counts as a core course in the MA and Certificate curriculum.) 
This course will present a broad overview of issues that administrators who work in museums, historical societies, archives, special collection libraries, and other cultural resource agencies experience in their careers. In this course the term “administrator” applies to both the head of an organization as well as mid-level managers. In addition to discussions that are unique to agencies that collect,  preserve, and share cultural resources, that the class will also look broadly at trends in management techniques and leadership that can apply to any non-profit organization.

MSTD A530: Museum Colloquium (3 cr.) This course provides graduate students with the tools and knowledge necessary to assess, understand, and utilize the links among their education,  goals, and career opportunities. It  supports graduate students approaching the end of their degree program in 1) exploring the connections between   the museum knowledge they have mastered and the skills they have developed,  2) framing and articulating their knowledge and skills as well as their vocational goals to others including prospective employers, 3) developing   critical competencies for community-focused museum work, and 4) creating professional plans as they transition    into or advance in the work force or pursue further education.

MSTD A595: Independent Learning in Museum Studies (1-6 cr.) A supervised, in-depth examination through individual reading and research on a particular Museum Studies topic selected and conducted by the student in consultation with a faculty member. May be repeated for no more than 6 credit hours total.

Current Topics and Special Topics Course Descriptions
[note– many of these courses will be proposed as permanent courses and assigned unique course numbers]

MSTD A560: Current Topics in Museum Studies (3 cr.) Intensive graduate-level study and analysis of selected topics in museum studies. Topics will vary from semester to semester – see specific course descriptions below.
May be repeated for credit.

MSTD A560: Current Topics: Museums and Indigenous People (3 cr.) The United Nations Declaration on the Rights   of Indigenous Peoples contains several statements that deal with protection of Indigenous heritage, but Article    15(1) is especially important: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures,  traditions,   histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information.”   Indigenous people have often complained about how museums misrepresent their lives and heritage,  but also how  they care for Indigenous material culture in their collections. This class examines the rapidly changing relationships   between museums and Indigenous peoples and explores a wide range of topics from repatriation; to appropriate  and culturally sensitive care of objects;  to the inclusion of Indigenous voice in exhibitions and programs.  The course incorporates a range of learning methods including, video, occasional lectures, guest speakers, museum   visits, and hands-on projects.

MSTD A560: Current Topics: Museum Ethics (3 cr.) This course introduces current ethical concerns relevant to museums and the various audiences they serve. It focuses on the philosophical and practical dilemmas faced by  exhibiting   institutions in their efforts to formulate and fulfill their missions.  It pays particular attention to the relationships between the   governing bodies of these institutions and their staff, their intended audiences, and the source communities which they   represent. The course also provides an historical framework tracing the development of these issues In order to   contextualize the present situation.

MSTD A560: Current Topics: Issues in Native American Representation (3 cr.) From sports mascots, tourist “junk,”   and New Age paraphernalia to superb films and museum exhibits, the images of Indians presented to the public and Indians    themselves become confusing and often are stereotypical. Through readings, videos, online materials, and hands-on projects   using exhibits in the Eiteljorg Museum, the course will consider a wide range of issues including economics, ethics,   authenticity, stereotyping, and sovereignty. Because the subject matter cross-cuts the realm of Indigenous issues, the class    and readings will necessarily touch upon similar issues in non-Native American Indigenous cultures.

MSTD A560: Current Topics: American Indians in Film (3 cr.) No medium has done more to create and confound images of American Indians than film. Ranging from simplistic, warlike savages to ennobled,  ecological   mystics, these images tend to mirror the complexities of the dominant society and are mostly created by them.  What are the impacts of these images on both Indian people and the dominant society? How are the images  created? What are the cultural contexts of the medium itself? These and a range of other subjects will be  examined in the course.

MSTD A560: Current Topics: Museum Education Research Methods (3 cr.) This course is an overview on the theoretical foundations of educational research and practical application of those methods in a museum setting.  It incorporates an overview of techniques in museum education and visitor studies research, and emphasizes the utility ofresearch in museum education practices. Students will participate in project-based activities with museum professionals and researchers, as well as become active consumers, reviewers, and advocates of research in the museum field.

MSTD A560: Current Topics: Critical Approaches to Museum Education (3 cr.) As informal learning environments,  museums are community resources that present content through a variety of formats ranging from text- rich labels to   engaging displays and activity-based interdisciplinary experiences and exhibitions. As museums grapple with their changing   role within communities, the format and orientation of education programs and exhibitions is changing. This course   examines the potential of applying critical pedagogy methods to museum education and exhibition development as a way to   create meaningful audience involvement and stronger civic engagement of museums.

MSTD A460/560 Community Collaboration & Curation: This course (meeting in Spring 2018, second 8 week session) was created for students in various fields, including anthropology, museum studies and Native studies.  Students will participate in a community-based, community driven project while gaining a deeper understanding of Anishinaabe culture (Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples of the Great Lakes region). This course will meet on Tuesdays from 12:00 - 2:40 pm, March 6th - April 27th.  It will include lectures, group discussions and a community component off-campus that will take place at tribal museums and culture centers in the Great Lakes region (details and dates to be announced).

HER H400/H590 Museums, Architecture, and the Politics of Space: When museum scholars and professionals discuss the social function of the museum, they often consider how the institution operates as a temple, or place to find enlightenment, and a forum, or community center. Recognizing that this language is rooted in architecture, this course will examine the ways in which museum buildings and their grounds reflect mission, shape visitor experience, and shed light on the complex relationships between a museum and the communities it serves or alienates. Through readings, visual analysis, site visits, and discussion, students will consider exhibition spaces ranging from the converted European palaces of the eighteenth century to the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Students will apply concepts and methods from our group study in independent research projects about local museums and their grounds.

While Graduate Numbers are pending, the following undergraduate courses may be taken as electives. If an MSTD A560 number is not listed, students register for an MSTD A595 or ANTH A594 course to receive credit attend the class and fulfill the graduate requirements stipulated by the instructor.