Museum Studies Standard Course List

CMST 6101 – Museum Management (Fall)
An overview of the major activities in governing and managing a museum. Course introduces the student to the non-profit sector and the context of the legal and professional expectations for governance. Course covers the elements of forming a museum, strategic planning, the role of the CEO/Director, building the organization structure and staffing. Finance, operations, and facilities management are also covered. The course also includes sessions on fundraising, grant writing, business planning, special events, programs, performance measurement and accreditation, marketing, public relations, and managing change. A strong emphasis on ethical challenges and decision making is included.

CMST 6102 – Museum Financial Management (Spring, alternating years)
Overall financial management of the museum including financial planning and analysis, internal controls, accounting, budgeting and financial reporting, presentation and leadership. Theory applied to practical situations.

CMST 6104 – Managing People and Projects (Spring)
Dealing with people is an area consistently mentioned as a major challenge for museum managers. Students study organizational behavior theory, the methods of building a motivated and skilled staff, and focus on the team process. Project management systems are taught including developing scope, schedule and budget, team dynamics, resource leveling, and working within a matrix environment. The role of the project manager is emphasized along with tools for managing change and negotiating conflict. Case studies are presented by practitioners working in museums today.

CMST 6105 – Museum Fundraising (Fall, alternating years)
Fundraising is an increasingly important skill of today’s museum professional. From the director to the curator, to the educator, to the development specialist, everyone may be called in from time to time to participate in the development effort. This course will cover the basics in fundraising today including sources of funds, best practices and approaches, annual funds and capital campaigns, and the internal management of the fundraising effort. Student work will include donor research, grant writing and a museum project.

CMST 6106 – Museum Marketing (Spring, alternating years)
Marketing may be one of the most misunderstood terms in the museum field. Sometimes it’s dismissed as a manipulative sales technique bordering on hucksterism, other times it’s the missing secret ingredient that promises to transform the organization. In this course, we’ll view marketing as an intentional approach to create mutually beneficial relationships between museums and their audiences. The theories and skills you’ll develop in this marketing course will help you improve exhibitions, school programs, collections access, fundraising appeals, and strategic plans.

This course relies heavily on large and small group discussions, research and readings, workshops and exercises, writing and peer review, and online activities and resources. These varied experiences will help you think critically about marketing in museums throughout your professional career. As a result of completing this course, students will recognize the advantages of mutually beneficial relationships between museums and their audiences and develop strategies for recognizing and enhancing these relationships.

CMST 6107 – Museum Ethics and Values (Fall, Spring)
Ethical questions museums face in practical, political, and institutional contexts, including governance and funding, collecting and preservation, exhibiting culture, and education and public programs. Students will analyze and evaluate current professional standards for museum ethics; research and analyze current and emerging ethical issues in museums; trace major movements in the development of museum ethics and values in the United States; evaluate important museum theorists in the area of ethics; think and write critically about museum ethics; and discuss and analyze theoretical critique that might inform – and improve -- future practice.

CMST 6109 – Museum Governance (Fall, alternating years)
Good governance with an informed diverse board and an effective board-staff partnership are central to the success of every museum. As a basic component of the museum professional’s experience, everyone from the director, to the curator, to the educator, to the collections manager, to museum management, will have the responsibility of working with members of the board through special projects, their museum departments and trustee committees. To ensure the success of these experiences, strong working relationships between board and staff and an understanding of respective roles and responsibilities will be essential. This course will cover the role and responsibilities of the board and the elements of a successful staff-board partnership. Case studies from the museum community and guest speakers will exemplify these topics.

CMST 6201 – Introduction to Collections Management (Fall)
This class will serve as an introduction to creating, controlling, and protecting collections. We will look at the fundamentals of collections care (collections plans and policies, accessions, deaccessioning, loans, access, and the physical protection of museum objects) as well as legal and ethical issues related to collecting and collections management. Because guidelines to best practices run up against contingencies ‘on the ground,’ case studies will introduce students to challenges encountered in museum practice.

CMST 6202 – Collections Management: Practical Applications (Spring) pre-requisite: CMST 6201
This class focuses on the implementation of collections policies and procedures: establishing and managing collections, management procedures and systems, documentation of collections, records preservation, collections access and storage, handling, packing and shipping, and inventory control. This is the second- semester, applied class for 6201. CMST 6201 Introduction to Collections Management is required for this class.

CMST 6203 – Preventive Conservation Concepts (Fall)
Examines the role of preventive conservation in museums by introducing materials commonly found in collections, the causes of their deterioration and the resources available to identify and mitigate collection risks. Students will learn how to handle objects, how to record object conditions in written and photographic formats, how to choose a conservator, how to test materials for use with museum collections, how to perform a qualitative assessment, and to understand the ethics that govern conservation. (Cross-listed with Departments of Anthropology and Fine Art).

CMST 6204 – Preventive Conservation Techniques (Spring) pre-requisite: CMST 6203
Builds upon topics introduced in the Preventive Conservation Concepts course with emphasis placed on practical exercises and ethical issues. Students will learn how to evaluate and monitor collections, how to prepare a grant for collections care, and how to develop and implement policies and procedures to facilitate collections care. CMST 6203 (or its cross-listed equivalent in Fine Arts/Anthropology) is required for this class.

CMST 6205 – Archival Practice (Fall)
This course introduces museum professionals to the core ideas and practices of archivists and archival institutions. It establishes a foundation of` knowledge about archival materials (their nature and uses); professional principles and practices in the management of archival materials (archival theory and functions); archival institutions (purposes, placement, operations); and the archives profession (values, organizations). It will illuminate differences and commonalities in professional values and methods of archives and museums. Students will become familiar with doing research in archives.

CMST 6206 – Digitization & Digital Asset Management (Spring)
This course is designed for museum professionals who expect to manage digital assets, projects, or programs involving digitization and access. It examines current methods in the creation and dissemination of digital surrogates, associated metadata, and digital descriptive records of museum collections. By exploring the workflows and guidelines necessary to implement a successful digitization project, this course examines the aspects of maintaining and managing digital assets. Aspects of technical creation and guidelines will be addressed; digital asset management, metadata creation and use, as well as long-term preservation and access of those assets will be discussed.

CMST 6301 – Museum Exhibitions, Curatorial Practice and Planning (Fall)
The class focuses on the work of curators in the selection, display and interpretation of objects for collections and in exhibitions. Sessions emphasize ethics and collecting, exhibit conceptualization and development, working with the community, the production of meaning, and the politics of exhibiting.

CMST6302 – Museum Exhibition Design (Spring)
Participants will focus on translating museum exhibition concepts into specific plans, models, and specification documents in this introductory class. Different computer design and graphic programs are introduced.

CMST 6304 – Exhibition Development and Scriptwriting (Spring) pre-requisite: CMST 6301
Class emphasizes exhibition content and includes sessions on evaluation, team work, audience engagement, learning styles, budgeting, exhibition layering, language and best practices. Students follow an idea from conceptualization through organization to scripting---with extensive peer review. Class includes guest speakers.

CMST 6305 – Visitor Perspectives – Museum Evaluation in Exhibitions (Fall)
Of the many components involved in exhibition development, incorporating the visitors’ voice is often misunderstood, neglected, or under-used. This course will review current learning theory and visitor research related to exhibition development. Emphasis will be placed on how an understanding of the visitor experience informs the various stages of exhibition development, from concept generation, design, interpretation, and installation. Students will then put theory into practice by conducting visitor research on a local exhibition and organizing a public review of that exhibition by area museum professionals.

CMST 6306 – Race, Gender, Sexuality and Museums (Spring, alternating years)
Will explore the role that museums have played in the construction and reification of the categories of race (including whiteness) and gender, and the representation of the lives of women, African Americans, Native Americans, and other cultural minorities. The class will focus on museums in the United States but will include some non-US examples. We will also look at how these represented –and often unrepresented –groups have created opportunities to tell their own stories and exhibit their own cultural productions in museums such as the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Class readings and discussion will cover issues such as identity politics, feminism, essentialism, and the performance of identity in the museum setting.

CMST 6307 – Interpreting Historic Sites and House Museum (Fall)
How has historic house/site interpretation changed in the last two decades? The class explores how these museums use historical documents, objects, and ideas to craft new interpretations with respect to social, political, and cultural life in the past. Class usually partners with a local museum/site for group project.

CMST 6308 – Critical Visitor Experience (Fall, alternating years)
As museums become increasingly visitor-focused, it is critical to understand the multiple factors that affect the whole visitor experience. What is the impact of museum architecture on the museum visit? How does the museum’s shop, café, and other non-exhibit spaces inform the visitor experience? In this field-trip based course, students will utilize multiple frameworks through which to explore, observe and critique visitor-facing aspects of museum work. Note: This course will be based at institutions around the DC area. Students will need to travel to different locations depending on the week.

CMST 6403 – Museums and Digital Technology (Fall)
In many museums, digital technologies are now a naturalized and expected presence–core to the institutional approaches to problem solving. In the post-digital museum, technology and digital media are not considered as ends in themselves, but rather, as the means that helps the museum meet its mission and goals. Technology is not neutral, however. It has its own histories, both within and outside museums that impact its adoption within the museum. Museums began using digital technologies in the 1960s, and this has affected how museums work and how they define themselves. This course will explore the relationship between museums and digital technology, considering how and why it has been incorporated into practice.

CMST 6404 – Museums and Social Media (Spring)
The introduction of Web2.0 or the ‘social web’ in the mid-2000s led to an influx of new participants in the consumption and creation of digital information. Typified by platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs, the social web focused on user participation as critical in the creation of value. By lowering the technical barriers to entry, the social web made it easier for people outside formal institutions such as the press to create and publish their own work, changing the ways that people
communicate and interact with one another, and with organizations and institutions. Museums continue to experiment with how best to engage in this environment to serve their missions and their audiences. In this course, students will utilize multiple online platforms to discern the affordances and complexities of social media for museums. Together, we will consider strategies, tactics, and benchmarks for measuring social media, as well as risk, privacy and publicness, and online identities (professional, personal, and institutional). Students should be prepared to be active participants in an online, multi-platform peer discourse throughout the semester.

CMST 6501 – Museum Internship (Fall, Spring, Summer)
Supervised practical training in Washington area museums (or elsewhere). Internships are supervised by one or more members of the sponsoring museum staff and focus on a variety of areas including museum management, conservation, collections management, exhibition design and development. Prior approval required.

CMST 6502 – Directed Research (Fall, Spring, Summer)
Individual research on special topics in the museum field working with a MSTD professor or outside museum experts. Topics must be approved in advance by MSTD.

CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Museums and Social Justice (Spring, alternating years)
In 2020, museum activists and organized publics are challenging museums to confront their colonial and racist pasts, to acknowledge the continuing effects of those origins in their exhibitions and programming, and to engage programmatically in urgent matters of racial, economic, social, and climate justice. These calls have been made before, but now, emboldened by the resurgence of and broad support for the Black Lives Matter movement, they are stronger, perhaps more integrated (or at least visible), and are meeting with more success. In addition, critics and museum employees are pushing for a reckoning with institutional labor practices and biases regarding hiring, compensation, and protections at the institutional level and in the field as a whole.

In this course, we will engage critically with museum content -- past and present -- designed to challenge the status quo, support social change, reveal and wrestle with past injustices, and attempt reconciliation and reform beyond the walls of the museum. We will look backward and to the present political moment at exhibitions, programming, engagement efforts, commissioned art installations, and other projects to contextualize the demands for a new kind of museum that eschews the pretext of neutrality to act in creative and conscious ways in the pursuit of equity and inclusion, in terms of staff, audiences, and content. For the last five weeks of the semester, we will apply the theoretical critique and historical knowledge we have gained toward the creation of projects that creatively employ the institutional history of GWU to increase awareness, spur dialogue, and perhaps even enact change.

CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Practices in Place (selected Spring semesters)
This course will focus on museum programming in theory and practice. Using case studies from the Smithsonian Institution, museums across the country and around the globe, we will study and discuss the role programs play in museums and how programs can connect with a museum’s communities and audiences. This lass is designed to engage with current and historical trends in museum programming and how programs can serve as vehicles for community engagement, outreach, and relationship-building. This class will also provide opportunities to gain a “behind the scenes” look at the production of museum programming so that students can gain tangible next steps for creating and implementing programs in various museum contexts. Students in this course will engage with the topic through select readings, regular discussion, writing and reflection projects, hands-on experiences, and meeting museum practitioners throughout the field.

CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Issues Related to Collections Policy (selected Summer semesters)
This class will look in depth at five issues related to collections in which there is currently some debate or question as to “best practice”: deaccessioning; repatriation and restitution; provenance research; storage for culturally sensitive collections; and collections access. Each week will be devoted to one topic, with one class spent discussing readings on the issue, and one class in conversation with a professional in the field. Students will be required to write 4 short papers (one per week) reviewing the assigned readings, and one longer paper on the issue of her choice based on a case study.

CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Museums as Learning Institutions (selected Fall semesters)
Taking a broad, interdisciplinary view, this course will explore the role of learning in museums. We will investigate a variety of ways that museums approach and plan for learning; why learning matters; and how museum departments can work together to support learning. Current research in neuroscience, generational characteristics, and business will be included. The course will be practical and experiential, integrating and modeling best practices in museum education throughout.

CMST 6601 – Special Topics: Provenance Research (selected Fall semesters)
This class will cover the basics of Provenance Research including an introduction to relevant
research archives. The instructor’s research interests focus on the history of art and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean world. From 2015 to 2017, she was a CLIR/Mellon postdoctoral fellow in data curation at the University of Toronto. Most recently, she was a research and metadata assistant in collecting and provenance at the Getty Research Institute, working on digital projects pertaining to the history of collecting and the art market.

CMST 6701 – Museum History and Theory (Fall, alternating years)
More often than not, museum practitioners and theorists speak at cross purposes. This course will take steps to bridge that gap. We will first explore the origins of the modern museum and the history of (mainly) American museums. Then, using U.S. and non-U.S. examples, we will engage with theorists whose ideas have been accessed to inform our understanding of museums as places of meaning making, power, empowerment, and cultural authority, and as “contact zones” (James Clifford, 1997). As the theory informs our understanding of how museums have functioned – both in the past and in more contemporary examples –we will be better prepared to engage critically with our own work as museum practitioners.

CMST 6703 – Museums and Community Engagement (Spring)
Museums of all types are increasingly turning to their local communities as a primary audience for programming and support. We will study why this shift in thinking is occurring in museums and when it is an appropriate strategy. Then we will use a variety of techniques to identify and describe a local community and develop a range of methods for engagement to fulfill a museum’s mission and goals. By the end of the course, each student will be able to craft a community engagement plan that is suitable for presentation to a board or executive director.

CMST 6704 – Museum and Cultural Property (Spring)
This seminar will examine the legal and ethical principles involved with ownership and restitution of stolen art and other cultural property wrongfully removed from their owners or countries of origin. Through the use of case studies of claims brought against museums, the course will critically analyze current museum policies and procedures for acquisition, exhibition, retention and restitution of their collections.

*Special Topic for fall 2022* – CSA 6901.80 Writing About Others – Writing About Others will be an exploration about what it means—ethically, poetically, formally—to represent the lived experiences or practices of others. Although the focus will be on writing, the ideas we will discuss are widely applicable to other forms of representation, including the visual. Drawing upon texts including Édouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, we will think about how to model non-violent ways of pursuing our curiosity about the lives and work of others, and acting in solidarity with them.