13 September 2022 New Critical Museum Studies Minor

Program provides technical and critical skills in various museum aspects 

A new minor in Critical Museum Studies offers students the chance to investigate museums from a decolonial perspective while providing them the practical skills to work in a variety of fields.  

Available now, students can follow one of three tracks within the program based on their interest: Art Museums and Galleries, History and Cultural Museums and Beyond Museums. Courses are cross-listed listed with Anthropology, Art History, American Studies, Media and Society, Sociology and Women’s Studies, to name a few. A new introductory course is also featured as a requirement. 

Students will learn skills in different aspects of working in museums such as installation techniques, designing, cataloging, collections management, writing exhibit labels, and budgeting. 

In addition, students get the chance to work with local and regional museums, including Main Street Arts, the Dove Block Project, Harriet Tubman National Historic Park, Historic Geneva, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, as well as HWS’s own Davis Gallery and the new Provenzano Student Art Gallery. 

Students complete the program either through an internship where they are paired with an institution or through a portfolio containing artifacts relating to their coursework.  

“Students engage in critical thinking and writing, while developing some of the designing and curation skills that are necessary for the field, no matter what type of cultural institution they might end up in. Our courses and extracurriculars also provide students the opportunity to travel to a variety of museum spaces and to hear from professionals, some of whom are alum, about the different career possibilities available to them,” says Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture Angelique Szymanek, the chair of the program.  

The idea for the program originated, in large part, from students who showed an interest in Art History and wanted to get practical experience to help translate that interest into a career, Szymanek says. Additionally, students taking courses in Anthropology, History, American Studies, Media & Society, among other related fields, wanted to pair their coursework with experience working with collections of cultural objects of various kinds. The minor program was created by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty including Professors Jeffrey Anderson (Anthropology), Elizabeth Belanger (American Studies), Brian Clark (Anthropology), Liliana Leopardi (Art History), Craig Talmage (Entrepreneurial Studies), and Szymanek (Art History) 

Beyond giving students the skills to work in museums, Critical Museum Studies also analyzes  the colonial aspects of museums, providing a critical examination of the ways institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and classism have shaped histories of collecting, archiving and exhibiting.

“We wouldn’t be doing our students any justice if we were preparing them for jobs in museums and galleries and did not center decolonization; that is the future of the field,” Szymanek says.  

Szymanek says that since the program is flexible and can pair well with a plethora of other programs of study at the Colleges, it is meant for anyone interested in museum work. To learn more, contact Angelique Szymanek at symanek@hws.edu.