MA in Museum Studies Course Descriptions
Museums and the Public I: People and Ideas
This course addresses the various roles museums play in society, accentuating the position of the museum as a significant cultural institution whose form and very existence depends upon a rich interchange with its community, local and global. It is designed largely as a series of invited lectures by museum professionals such as museum directors, curators, donors, fundraisers, docent trainers, web designers etc., with both theoretical and practical knowledge of museums. These lectures, combined with weekly readings, will serve as springboards for individual analysis and class discussion.
Museums, Galleries and the History and of Collecting
This course provides the student with a thorough background in the history of collections, collecting, and private and public display of objects from a European perspective, with some comparison to non-Western habits of collecting. Issues addressed include the concept of collecting and systems of classifying in Europe and America; the relationship between collecting, classifying and the birth of museums; the role of travel in the formation of collections; and the shaping of taste and religious, cultural, political and financial impacts on the display of collections in museum contexts. Visits to historical collections form an integral part of the course.
Museum Development, Management and Leadership
This course provides a basic understanding of how modern museums are structured, administered and financed in various parts of the world while offering leadership and management skills at various levels of the museum hierarchy. Some issues to be addressed include what makes an effective non-profit leader and manager, potential controversies and legal problems that can arise in museums and developing strategies for dealing with them, operational issues, growth potential, and strategic planning and capital expense budgeting in a museum context.
Art and Objects in Museums and in Context
This course addresses the problems of the meaning, context, and display of art and objects through three case studies, each covered by a different instructor for one third of the semester. Case studies will be in 1) Florentine Renaissance art objects in context and in museum settings in Florence, 2) contemporary art and the special problems it poses to museums and 3) non-art museums (such as history or history of science museums) and the objects they house. Students will assess the effectiveness and sustainability of museum displays according to various parameters including viewer expectations, cultural biases and the fostering of aesthetic systems, religious and conservation issues.
Research Methods I: Methodologies and Resources
Students will develop and hone critical analytical skills by critiquing published papers in a variety of museum studies fields and being introduced to a variety of methodologies. In the process they will be introduced to modes and places of research in Florence.
Museums and the Public II: Objects and Audience
Designed to follow “Museums and the Public I: People and Ideas,” this course offers the student a guided, hands-on experience in the creation, planning, researching, financing, structuring, installation, and marketing of a focus show for the general public at a Florentine institution, such as the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi. It involves 15 taught hours and roughly 200 hours of guided student work on the various aspects of the exhibition outlined above.
Transcultural Aesthetics, Ethnography and Cultural Bias
This course seeks address the relationships between aesthetics, religion and the socio-cultural function of objects and the delicate role of museums in fostering aesthetic systems. The differences between art museums, archaeology museums and ethnography museums will be reviewed as will definitions of art and artifact. The role of photography and other didactic measures will be evaluated historically and conceptually. Most of this analysis will take place though case studies.
Museum Spaces and Technologies
This course investigates the design of museum spaces and the various architectural and technological means used to enhance the public experience of the content of those spaces. Virtual museums and web presence will also be addressed insofar as these are related to and often derived from the experience of physical displays in the museum. Special attention will be given to issues of sustainability and the importance of local context in creating museum experiences.
Using case studies and theoretical analyses, this course explores how museums reach out to their communities, including the staging of events for public outreach, teaching from objects and teaching others (guides, volunteers, interns) to teach from objects, and the educational use of technologies. It will also examine the role of the museum educator and his or her engagement with the phenomena of formal, informal, and lifelong learning. Students interested in pursuing a career as a museum educator are strongly encouraged to enroll.
Conservation and Historic Preservation
This course investigates the ethical, historical and cultural issues in the conservation and preservation of museum objects using selected case studies. Topics include the assessment of the historical significance of objects, risk management approaches to the management of cultural property, and issues relating to the care, handling, and storage of art objects and museum buildings.
Museums: Ethics and the Law
This course introduces the student to the legal and ethical issues faced by museums as repositories of cultural property across the world. Issues explored on a comparative international basis include copyright, censorship, public interest, appropriate conservation, theft, dubious provenance, and repatriation of art and artifacts.
Research Methods II: The Thesis Proposal
Completed in the early months of the Spring term, this course follows “Research Methods I: Methodologies and Resources” and essentially serves a forum in which the students choose their area of concentration and develop the prospectus for the Master’s thesis. In the class sessions, students will propose thesis topics, present draft thesis proposals, critique eachother’s proposals, and revise proposals. Concurrently, students are expected to meet with prospective faculty advisors.
Upon the successful completion of “Research Methods II: The Thesis Proposal” in which the student’s thesis prospectus is approved (usually in April) and the faculty advisor chosen, he or she may begin the internship. While students may initiate the internship anytime after the approval of the Master’s Thesis prospectus, most will opt to undertake the bulk of this work experience once they have completed their Spring term courses as they will have more time and more flexibility to offer their host institution. Students will choose an internship of a minimum of 200 hours which will bring the student in contact with a real working museum institution, giving him or her the opportunity to test the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills acquired while taking “Museums and the Public II: Objects and Audience.” The internship may be completed in Florence or elsewhere and will be jointly supervised by LdM staff and the host institution. All approved internships will comply with Italian health and safety codes.
Upon the successful completion of “Research Methods II: The Thesis Proposal” in which the student’s thesis prospectus is approved and his faculty advisor chosen, he or she may begin to research and write the masters thesis. This course has no formal requirements other than periodic meetings with the faculty advisor and many hours of research, writing and revising.