The master of arts in museum studies prepares museum professionals who are distinguished by their versatility and creative problem-solving ability. The 33 credit hour degree program utilizes a multidisciplinary approach including theoretical and practical instruction and experience. In addition to the 9 credit hours of required courses that provide the basic framework for understanding the growing discipline of museum studies, students specialize in one of three areas of museum work: collections management and curatorial practice, museum experience and education, or museum operations.
M.A. in Museum Studies Core Requirements
All students accepted into the museum studies master's program are required to take three core classes. These classes provide the basic framework for understanding the discipline of museum studies, the historiography of American museums, museological theory, and the creative process. The course in Creative Problem Solving offered through Buffalo State’s International Center for Studies in Creativity is critical for student’s understanding of how creativity and innovation are equated with organizational success, to learn how to make new connections and understand big-picture thinking, skills that are equated with a highly talented worker in today’s world. The three courses together provide graduate students with the basics for entering the museum workforce and for contributing to the discipline’s ongoing conversations regarding relevancy and reinvention.
Collections Management and Curatorial Practice Track
This track provides students with hands-on experience with both museum collections and the technology that assists museum practitioners and the public to study, interpret, catalog, access, and present museum collections. Students will work directly with museum collections through specialized course work taught by faculty affiliated with museums and by engaging in internships from a range of cultural institutions. Museum personnel that are affiliated with the program will guide special projects and provide support services through interactive presentations and workshops. Students will have hands-on training in the care and handling of objects, learn to troubleshoot and prioritize special needs for collections, understand the varied environments in which collections are kept, the implications of storage and exhibits, the day-to-day management of collections, collection planning, de-accessioning and the legal aspects of collecting. Students will also learn to digitize and present museum collections and evaluate current technologies available for this purpose.
Museum Operations Track
The structure of the proposed program reflects the most current requirements for museum preparation. Thirty years ago, most of the emphasis of museum studies programs was on curatorial experience. This program also recognizes the importance of early administrative training with a museum operations track.
There is no job within a museum that does not require administrative work. Moreover, as junior-level staffers move up to senior positions, administrative duties increase along with the amount of time devoted to administrative responsibilities. The courses within the museum operations track address the full range of daily operations in museums as well as special administrative initiatives, such as strategic planning and museum accreditation. This range of offerings also addresses the need for leadership training at every level of museum work including that of executive director. This track fulfills the recommendations made for graduate programs by the Museum Association of New York, which recommends that leadership be treated "as a complex and evolving subject deserving in-depth examination" and encourages "tracks of museum leadership study leading to certificates or degrees." The gaps in leadership that are projected to occur within the next decade anticipates that young museum professionals will have increased opportunities to advance to top leadership posts. The museum operations track also provides opportunities for students to receive supervised, practical training within management/administrative internships, which is all too uncommon in existing graduate programs.
Visitor Experience and Education Track
The program embraces the opportunity to train students in the rapidly expanding areas of visitor experience and education. Free choice learning in the museum environment has become a widely popular area of research within the last decade. It has long been recognized that museums are competitors with the broader entertainment industry for consumer dollars and this observation has led many organizations to re-evaluate and reinvent their community identity in the twenty-first century. Understanding visitor experience provides students with the opportunity to apply creative energy to the important question of keeping museums relevant and exciting. Likewise, museum educators are in strong demand, with even the smallest organizations employing at least one education specialist. In the past, museum educators were drawn from the pool of people that were trained to teach in formal settings (eg, the classroom). The dynamics of museum education, however, are different than preparation for classroom teaching. A museum educator must recognize the diversity of age groups that patronize the institution and how to utilize potential interactions among these age groups to foster learning in a museum setting.
Each track also encourages opportunities for students to take courses in other tracks. For example, a student in the museum operations track would gain valuable insights into how to fundraise by focusing donor interest on the needs of museum collections or educational programs. Likewise, students in the museum experience and education track could benefit from learning how to reach the museum public and provide educational access to collections through technology.
Other Courses by Advisement
The "Other Courses by Advisement" portion of each track remains flexible so students have ample opportunity to explore areas outside of their track to enrich their understanding of the museum "big picture" context and develop skills for interacting with their future colleagues. This aspect is especially important for teamwork approaches that many institutions are embracing for doing business on a daily basis. Teamwork awareness among graduate students is especially important in that many museums are also engaged in collaborative projects that require interaction among staffers in the wider museum community as well (for example, see Timeshare: An Historic Art Collaboration, http://www.burchfieldpenney.org. The philosophy behind this aspect of the proposed program applies principles of creative problem solving to museum work in that it allows students ample opportunity to become trained within the traditional parameters of museum job descriptions but also encourages them to make new and varied connections within their individual learning experiences.
Internship and Thesis Credits
All courses for the program are three credits, with the exception of the internships and thesis. Internships can be taken as two three-credit hour courses or one six-credit hour course. The student’s primary adviser will also serve as his/her thesis adviser. A second reader will be selected from among the museum studies faculty. Students are expected to successfully defend their thesis before the master’s degree is awarded.
Students enrolled full time in the program carrying 9 credits per semester are expected to complete all requirements within two years.
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1. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. Applicants must have completed a minimum of 30 hours in a major field of study prior to admission.
2. A transcript review showing a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in at least 30 credit hours in the major field of study. An admissions committee will review foreign transcripts for the equivalency of the GPA and major content requirements.
3. A cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in the major field, and a minimum overall cumulative GPA of 2.75.
4. A statement of intent, minimum 500 words, addressing the following points:
a. Reasons for wanting to enter the museum studies program.
b. Plans for applying your graduate experience to the museum profession.
c. Related professional experiences.
5. Sample research paper from the applicant’s area of specialization.
(Writing samples will be evaluated for content, organization, and the use of standard language conventions)
6. Three letters of reference that attest to the applicant’s potential as a graduate student and as a museum professional.
7. Candidates will complete an interview (in person or by phone) with an admissions committee that includes the director of museum studies and two representatives from the Buffalo State College museum studies faculty.
Each applicant will be evaluated in terms of his or her baccalaureate degree, academic performance, their commitment to becoming a museum professional, experiential background, and the substance and quality of the additional supporting materials.
All completed applications must be received by the Graduate School Office before April 1 for admission for the following fall semester. All applicants will be notified of their acceptance/denial or waiting list status by June 1.
Advisement: Students will be assigned an adviser and mentored along every step of their graduate career from acceptance into the program through thesis completion.
1. Overall GPA of 3.0 or better.
2. Successful completion of all course work with a minimum grade of B or better.
3. Master’s thesis and defense: The student in consultation with the academic adviser and second reader, prepares and submits a written thesis. Once approved, the students must successfully provide an oral defense. The approved thesis is submitted electronically to the Graduate School Office and two bound copies to the department.
Required Courses (9 cr)
MST 601 Theory and Method in Museum Studies
HIS 660 Museums and Society
CRS 559 Principles of Creative Problem Solving
Collections Management and Curatorial Track (12 cr)
MST 620 Collections Management
MST 621 Registration Methods
MST 622 Researching and Presenting Museum Collections
MST 623 Digital Museum Collections
MST 624 Museum Archives
Other courses by advisement
Visitor Experience and Education Track (12 cr)
MST 630 Visitor Experience in Museums
SSE/MST 631 Learning from Museums
SSE/MST 632 Teaching with Historic Places
AED 505 Foundations in Museum Education Studies
AED 604 Fundamentals of Educational Programming for Museums
EDC 617 Educational Technology for Informal learning Environments
EDF 526 School, Community and Public Interaction
EXE 500 Individuals with Special Needs
Other courses by advisement
Museum Operations Track (12 cr)
MST 640 Museum Administration
MST 641 Revenue Generation for Museums
MST 643 Museum Marketing and Public Relations
BUS 545 Basic Accounting for Business and Non-business Organizations
BUS 688 Leadership in Organizations
COM 519 Communication for Leaders and Managers
Other courses by advisement
All Tracks (6-9 cr)
MST 590 Independent Study
MST 688 Museum Internship (3, 6)
All Tracks (3-6 cr)
MST 795 Master’s Thesis (6)
MST 695 Master’s Project (3)
Total Required Credit Hours (33 cr)
All courses are 3 credit hours unless otherwise indicated.