Museum Studies, MA

At the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, where our approach to anthropology encompasses the sciences, social sciences and humanities, we have developed a unique museum studies program that examines how museums produce and reflect culture and the role museums play worldwide.

  • Our students develop theoretical questions and applied skills that engage the functions, practices and critical analyses of museums. All of our graduates gain practical experience while being encouraged to challenge preconceived notions about museums and the way they affect and are affected by societies and cultures.

  • Top-quality faculty from our School of Human Evolution and Social Change; the Public History Program of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; the School of Community Resources and Development; and community professionals teach our courses, which address topics across the interdisciplinary boundaries of museum studies, including anthropology; art history, theory, and criticism; and public history.
  • Designed to be use-inspired, socially embedded and trans-cultural, the program ensures that our graduates understand the meaning and significance of museums in contemporary society and prepare them for diverse museum careers.
  • You will have many resources available to you, including our Center for Archaeology and Society's Innovation Gallery and Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve, as well as the extensive archaeological and ethnographic collections of its Repository. A close-knit community of museums across Arizona State University and the region provide integral networks of resources and relationships that bolster our program and opportunities for students and graduates.

 

The master of arts in museum studies requires a total of 30 credit hours. Pre-admission coursework may be counted toward the degree with the permission of the degree director in accordance with ASU Graduate College policy.

Our students enter this program with diverse backgrounds and varied career goals, so we remain flexible when helping you plan the most appropriate academic path for you. Curricular tracks will tend to be individualized, and final determination of your most appropriate course of study or how each requirement should most appropriately be met will be made by your advisory committee in consideration of your research and career goals.

Core Coursework (9 credits)
ASB 579: Critical Issues in Museum Studies (3 credits) 
ASB 500: Museum Studies Research Methods (3 credits) 
ASB 574: Exhibit Design and Development (3 credits) 
*Note ASB 574 may be retaken for elective credit.

Elective Coursework (9 credits)
This requirement includes at least two courses relevant to your research interests and educational needs. Electives include courses in many fields, most commonly anthropology, art history and public history. You are encouraged to propose to the executive committee additional courses from other graduate programs on campus for possible electives.

Internship or Practicum (6 credits)
Your 320-hour internship (equivalent to 6 credit hours) must take place in a museum or collection, supervised by an on-site member of staff. The internship must be approved by the director of our museum studies program and is normally expected to contribute to a project that has real significance to the institution. Up to 160 hours (equivalent to 1-3 credit hours) may be fulfilled in the form of an ASU-based practicum that contributes to a project and/or exhibit at an approved ASU museum or collection.

ASB 584: Internship (3-6 credits)
ASB 580: Practicum (1-3 credits)

Research Portfolio (6 credits) 
The portfolio comprises two research papers on a museum studies interdisciplinary or disciplinary issue in your particular area of interest in anthropology, history or art.

Though faculty are drawn from complementary academic units and the professional community, our school houses these core faculty:

Photo of Richard Toon

Museum Studies Program Director
Richard Toon, Research Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Co-Director, Center for Archaeology and Society 

Photo of Arleyn Simon

Arleyn Simon, Associate Research Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Curator of Collections, Center for Archaeology and Society 

 

 

For information on the application process, deadlines and funding, please see our Graduate Admission FAQs.

 

Q. What is the museum studies program about?
A. The program examines how museums produce and reflect culture and the role museums play worldwide. Students develop theoretical questions and applied skills that engage the functions, practices and critical analyses of museums. Courses address topics across the interdisciplinary boundaries of museum studies, including anthropology; art history, theory, and criticism; and public history. The program is designed to be use-inspired, socially embedded and trans-cultural, educating students in the meaning and significance of museums in contemporary society and preparing them for diverse museum careers.

Q. What museum studies programs are available at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change?
A. The school has two programs:

a. The certificate in museum studies, which can usually be completed in one year. The certificate can be taken in conjunction with a graduate degree in another ASU department, but it can also be taken as a non-degree, non-major (i.e. unclassified) advance course of study by those who work in museums or intend to do so.

The certificate requires 12 credit hours of coursework (that is, four 3-credit hour courses) and an internship and/or practicum of 320 hours (6-credit hours, see below). Students are required to take ASB 579 Critical Issues in Museum Studies and ASB 574 Exhibit Design and Development. The other two courses should be from the list of electives (see below) or be in an area of special interest to the student, in consultation with the program director. Courses taken to satisfy certificate requirements may also fulfill a student’s degree requirements.

b. The master of arts in museum studies, which has replaced the master's degree in anthropology with a concentration in museum anthropology. Full-time students can usually complete the program in two years.

The master's degree requires 18 credit hours of coursework (that is, six 3-credit hour courses), an internship and/or practicum of 320 hours (6-credit hours) and a research portfolio (6 credit-hours). The portfolio comprises two research papers on a museum studies interdisciplinary or disciplinary issue in a student’s particular area of interest in anthropology, history or art. Research papers should be written in the context of courses taken to meet the master's degree requirements (equal to 6 credits). The findings of one research paper must be presented in an interdisciplinary research symposium.

Students are required to take ASB 579 Critical Issues in Museum Studies, ASB 500 Museum Studies Research Methods and ASB 574 Exhibit Design and Development (which may be taken twice). The other three courses should be from the list of electives (see below) or in an area of special interest to the student, in consultation with the program director.

Q. When can I apply?
A. Applications for the certificate program are considered on a rolling basis for admission in the fall or spring. Applications for the master's degree are usually due by December 1 for admission the following academic year (fall). Check the School of Human Evolution and Social Change website for details.

Q. What elective courses are available to museum studies students?
A. There are a wide variety of elective course offered in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change; the Public History Program in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; the School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; and the School of Community Resources and Development.

The list below provides only a sample of courses and is subject to change, depending on availability of faculty and new offerings. Courses are not available every semester.

  • ASB 572 Museum Collection Management
  • ASB 573 Museum Administration
  • ASB 591 Learning in Museums
  • ASB 591 Museums and Community
  • ASB 591 Museums and New Media
  • ASB 591 Museums and Popular Culture
  • ASB 590 Reading and Conference
  • ASB 500 Ethnographic Field Methods
  • ASB 591 Southwest Ethnology and Ethno History
  • ASB 531 Anthropology of Development
  • ASB 541 Theory in Socio-Cultural Anthropology
  • ASB 570 Immigration to the U.S.
  • ASB 591 Ethnography, theory, imagination
  • ASB 591 Modernity
  • ASB 591 Identity, Nationalism
  • HST 502 Public History Methodology
  • HST 598 U.S. Cultural Institutions and Public Practice
  • HST 525 Historical Resource Management
  • HST 526 Historians and Preservation
  • HST 527 Historical Administration
  • PUB 501 Introduction to Scholarly Publishing
  • ARS 591 Material Culture Analysis
  • ARS 591 Public Art
  • ARS 591 Art Museums, History, Theory, Practice
  • ARS 591 Visual Culture Studies
  • ARS 598 Systems, Art and Ecology (or Art and Ecology)
  • ART 598 Public Environments
  • ARS 535 Culture and Empire
  • ARS 598 Mexican Art in Times of Globalization
  • ARS 598 Art and Design Criticism
  • NLM 520 Financial Management in Nonprofit Organizations
  • NLM 560 Leadership and Ethics in the Nonprofit Sector
  • REC 591 Environmental Interpretation and Education
  • REC 591 Advanced Tourism Studies
  • REC 591 Special Events Management

Q. What does the museum internship involve?
A. The 320-hour internship (6-credit hours) must take place in a museum or collection, supervised by an on-site member of staff. The internship must be approved by the director of museum studies and is normally expected to provide an opportunity to contribute to a project that has real significance to the institution. As part of their duties the intern is expected to work principally on a project while also gaining an understanding of the institution, usually through attending meetings or other activities that are related to institutional planning or coordination.

Up to 160 hours (for 1-3-credit hours) of the total internship hours may be fulfilled in the form of an ASU-based practicum, approved by the director of museum studies. The practicum is expected to contribute to a project and/or exhibit under development at the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve or at another ASU museum or collection.

Students are required to produce a portfolio, a journal and a summary/reflection paper for internships. A letter of satisfactory completion is required from the site supervisor for internships and practicums.

Q. How many ASU credits can I bring into the program? 
A. Students admitted to the certificate program can bring in 6 credit hours (the equivalent of two courses), and master's degree students can bring in 9-credit hours (or three courses). In both cases, the credits must not have already been applied to another degree or certificate and must have been taken within 3 years of admission to the museum studies program.

Q. How do I apply for the program? 
A. Students must apply online through ASU Graduate College for the M.A. and the certificate programs. If you are already a graduate student at ASU you must fill out a separate application through the online system for the certificate.

The application deadline for the M.A. is December 1 each year for the following fall. There are no spring admissions. The application for the certificate is twice a year, but in addition to completing the online application, you must also inform graduate student services specialist Monica Salazar. Students for the certificate may be admitted in the spring or fall. If you are thinking of applying for a spring admission you must first discuss this with the program director, Richard Toon.

To avoid delays in the processing of applications, it is recommended that you have your application, transcripts, test scores and application fee to the ASU Graduate College admissions office by December 1 for the M.A. and as soon as possible for the certificate. Admission to the program is highly selective and dependent on such factors as qualifications of the student, supporting recommendations and space availability.

Q. Who do I contact with questions about the museum studies program? 
A. For questions about the programs please contact the program director, Richard Toon. For questions about the application process or applying, contact shesc.grad@asu.edu.

Degree Offered

Museum Studies, MA
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of

Location
Tempe

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study