Required and Elective Courses

Required Courses

History and Theory of Museums (MSMS-GA 1500)
Museum Collections and Exhibitions (MSMS-GA 1501)
Museum Management (MSMS-GA 1502)
Internship (MSMS-GA 3990)
Research Seminar (MSMS-GA 3991)

Elective Courses

Development, Fundraising, and Grantsmanship MSMS-GA 2221
Museum Conservation and Contemporary Culture MSMS-GA 2222
Historic Sites, Cultural Landscapes and the Politics of Preservation MSMS-GA 2223
Museum Education MSMS-GA 2224
Museums and Interactive Technologies MSMS-GA 2225
Topics in Museum Studies: Anthropology in and of Museums MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Creating a Memorial Museum MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and the Law MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Art Exhibitions After 1960  MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Challenges for Art Museum Curators Today MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: The Museum Life of Contemporary Art MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Blockbusters and Building Booms, 1970-Present MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Cultural Property, Rights and Museums MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and Political Conflict MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and Community MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Collecting and Exhibiting Latin American Art in the United States, 1931-present MSMS-GA 3330
Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and Indigenous Peoples MSMS-GA 3330
Exhibition Planning and Design MSMS-GA 3332
Museums and Contemporary Art MSMS-GA 3335
Research in Museum Studies MSMS-GA 3915

Cross-Listed Electives:

Museum Studies-related courses in other FAS departments and programs are regularly offered as cross-listed Museum Studies courses.  In addition, Museum Studies courses often are cross-listed in other departments of NYU.

Required Courses


History and Theory of Museums MSMS-GA 1500  Thorner, VonBokel. 4 points.
Introduction to the social, cultural, and political history of museums. This course focuses on the formation of the modern museum with an emphasis on the US context. Museums of Natural History, Anthropology, Science, Technology, History, and Art will be addressed from a variety of disciplinary approaches that explore the institution and its practices with respect to governance, colonialism, nationalism, class, gender, ethnicity, and community. Weekly visits to New York museums are required, along with frequent reading response papers, an exhibition review, and a final paper.
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Museum Collections and Exhibitions MSMS-GA 1501  Gear. 4 points.
Introduction to the care and management of objects and collections and to the process of organizing a temporary exhibition. Assignments consist of individual reports and working in small teams to prepare and present proposals on specific functions of collection management and to make an exhibition proposal. Museum professionals (Registrars, Conservators, Curators) speak on issues specific to their practice. Museum visits are scheduled as part of regular classroom meetings. As far as possible, the course covers museums of all disciplines.
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Museum Management MSMS-GA 1502  Schwartz, Weisser. 4 points.
This course provides an overview of management, finance, and administration for those aspiring to managerial and supervisory positions in museums. Topics to be covered include organizational structure and the roles and relationships of museum departments; operational issues, including security and disaster planning; museum accounting and finance, including operating and capital expense budgeting; leadership and strategic planning; and legal and ethical issues facing museums.
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Internship MSMS-GA 3990  VonBokel. 2 points
M.A. and Advanced Certificate students spend a minimum of 300 hours over one or more semesters in a project-oriented internship at a museum of other suitable institution. Students nearing completion of course prerequisites (G49.1500, G49.1501, and G49.1502) must schedule a planning meeting with the Program's Internship Coordinator. A daily log, evaluations, and progress report are required. Students must earn a grade of B or better to receive the M.A. or Advanced Certificate. Further information is available in the Internship Guidelines Packet.
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Research Seminar MSMS-GA 3991  Basilio, Thorner, Wharton. 2 points.
Students conduct research combining their academic and professional interests, using appropriate methodology. They formulate a topic, prepare an annotated bibliography, and write the qualifying paper based on their research. M.A. students also develop their thesis proposal.
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Elective Courses


Development, Fundraising, and Grantsmanship MSMS-GA 2221  Warwick. 4 points.
In the 21st century museums worldwide need creative fundraising to survive. This course provides a comprehensive overview of museum fundraising practices and an introduction to the skills and processes necessary for effective fundraising. Focusing in particular on the funding environment in the USA -- but referencing other international models -- topics covered include an overview of sources of funding and types of fundraising (capital campaign, planned giving, benefit events, etc.) and a survey of procedures for identifying available funds. Invited guests from a range of museum environments will discuss examples of successful fundraising. Students will complete various examples of fundraising approach (individual solicitations and grant requests, for example) and a comprehensive fundraising strategy for a museum project of their choice.
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Museum Conservation and Contemporary Culture MSMS-GA 2222  Wharton. 4 points.
As an introduction to museum conservation, this seminar combines classroom discussion with museum laboratory visits to provide an understanding of how conservation functions in the context of contemporary culture. The seminar is divided into three broad topics: museum collections care, the history and philosophy of western conservation, and the conservation of modern and contemporary art. It provides technical information about how artifacts age in the museum environment while examining conflicts that arise between professional and non-professional stakeholders. The seminar addresses concerns of living artists as well as indigenous groups and others with claims to the disposition and care of cultural materials. While enrollment is open to all NYU graduate students, priority will be given to Museum Studies students with research interests in exhibition and collections management.
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Historic Sites, Cultural Landscapes and the Politics of Preservation MSMS-GA 2223  VonBokel. 4 points.
This course will examine the cultural politics that influence reuse of historic spaces for museums and other public purposes. Through course readings, site visits and individual archival research, students will explore sites ranging from historic houses and period rooms presented as museum installations to restored villages and communities to dramatic reuse of historic space for cultural tourism. Students will pay particular attention to the social and political contexts in which original use and subsequent reuse took place, and analyze primary documents that illustrate both motivations and strategies for interpretation.
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Museum Education MSMS-GA 2224  Crow. 4 points.
This seminar will provide an overview of the field of Museum Education. Museum Education will be considered in the context of the institution's relationship with constituent communities, with application to a broad range of audiences. Among the topics to be considered are teaching from objects, learning strategies, working with docents and volunteers, program planning, and the educational use of interactive technologies.
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Museums and Interactive Technologies MSMS-GA 2225  Flouty. 4 points.
The course will present a survey and analysis of museum use of interactive technologies. Among the topics to be discussed in detail are strategies and tools for collections management, exhibitions, educational resources and programs, website design, digitization projects, and legal issues arising from the use of these technologies. Each student will develop an interactive project in an area of special interest.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Anthropology in and of Museums MSMS-GA 3330  Thorner. 4 points.
This course considers "the museum" as an object of ethnographic inquiry, examining it as a social institution embedded in a broader field of cultural heritage that is perpetually under negotiation. We reflect on how museum principles of classification, practices of collection and exhibition, uptake of media, technology, and archiving have influenced the ways in which knowledge has been formed, presented, and represented; and interrogate the role of museums as significant social actors in broad anthropological debates of power, materiality, value, representation, culture, nationalism, circulation, aesthetics, science, history, and "new" technologies. The museum is never simply a repository of arts, cultures, histories, or scientific knowledges, but also a site of tremendous creativity and a field of complex social relations.

Relying on case studies as a springboard for discussion of broader theoretical interventions, this course is structured according to four overlapping themes. We think about museums as nodes in the traffic in art and culture, a metaphor for the transnational circulation of objects and competing regimes of value illuminating histories of colonialism, power relations, and intercultural production. Secondly, we interrogate the relationships between Indigenous people and museums, including national recognitions of diversity, counter-narratives of history and belonging, performances of the other, and the intersections of Indigenous knowledge and various legal frameworks. Throughout the semester, we will think about the strategies and tools through which museums produce understandings of tangible artifacts (photographs, scientific specimens, artworks) and inspire reconsideration of preservation, archives, and memory. Finally, while the social lives of museums are always in flux, we conclude with materials highlighting important shifts in access occurring in the last twenty years, via movements in repatriation and developments in digital technologies. By the end of the semester, students will have gained both historical and ethnographic perspectives on how museums help us to know and reproduce ourselves and "others," and how these institutions craft, control, and circulate cultural heritage.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Creating a Memorial Museum MSMS-GA 3330  Weisser. 4 points.
This course examines the creation of a museum of memory, with a specific focus on the development of institutions honoring the events of 9/11. The course looks at the processes of building a new institution, and considers how a museum's site, architecture, exhibitions, collections, programming, and audience shape and reflect its mission. Readings and discussions focus on the theoretical underpinnings of memorializing and history making, comparative museums and exhibitions, and 9/11 chronicles and resources. Students will develop weekly writing assignments, which will often take the form of a position paper, and will produce a final creative research paper or project. This project will combine a student-initiated proposal with archival research and may take the form of a position paper, and will produce a final creative research paper or project. This project will combine a student-initiated proposal for an exhibition topic or component with archival research.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and the Law MSMS-GA 3330  Gleason. 4 points
Legal issues pervade so many aspects of the world of museums. The law can both constrain and enable the behavior of museum staff, administration, and others who work with these cultural organizations. Therefore, it is difficult to work in, for and with museums without some training in or familiarity with the law. In this course, we will examine how museums are affected by a variety of legal regulations, including cultural heritage legislation, intellectual property issues, such as copyright, trademark and moral rights, first amendment and censorship claims, work-place hazards, contracts, and nonprofit and tax laws, such as valuation, charitable transfers, payments in lieu of taxes and the unrelated business income tax. Readings will consist of case law and secondary sources detailing the most pressing legal issues facing different types of museums, and group discussions will be supplemented by mock case studies and negotiation exercises.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Art Exhibitions After 1960 MSMS-GA 3330  Altshuler. 4 points
This seminar will investigate the history of exhibitions and various approaches to the study of exhibition history. The focus will be on art exhibitions after 1960, with an emphasis on group exhibitions. Among the topics to be discussed are the significance of exhibitions within art and cultural history, the notion of an exhibitionary canon, the relationship between artistic and exhibitionary practice, and the major developments in this period. These developments include the growth of independent curating and new curatorial strategies, an increasing focus on thematic exhibitions, the expansion of biennials outside the Euro-American centers, and the use of discursive forms. Students will present the results of research on a particular exhibition or series of exhibitions, and submit a final paper on that topic. The permission of the instructor is required before registering for this course.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Challenges for Art Museum Curators Today MSMS-GA 3330  Basilio. 4 points
In this seminar we will examine practical, theoretical, and ethical challenges facing curators working in a variety of modern and contemporary art museums in New York and elsewhere. Among the topics to be considered are: museum curating and efforts to reactivate permanent collections through re-hangings; styles of presenting permanent collections; working with new buildings, artist commissions, performance and new media art; collaborations with registrars, conservators, and other colleagues; inter-cultural issues such as branch museums abroad, Latin American art in museums; biennials in museums, and other topics to be determined according to exhibitions scheduled in the New York area and guest availability. We will draw on historical and recent readings in the fields of art history, history of exhibitions, exhibition design, texts by curators, museum directors, and critics, museum visits, and guest speakers working in the field.
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Topics in Museum Studies: The Museum Life of Contemporary Art MSMS-GA 3330  Wharton. 4 points
The topic of this seminar is the life of contemporary artworks within museum collections. Sessions are organized around the trajectory of complex artworks from the process of acquisition, to documentation, storage, exhibition, and conservation intervention. Installation, media, and performance works in museums serve as case studies to analyze social, legal, and material dynamics as they move through this life cycle. Examination of these stages engages various contemporary debates around intellectual property and copyright, the notion of co-authorship, and various conceptual frameworks such as object biographies, intentionality, and authenticity. Students learn about museum processes as they assess practical challenges and theoretical questions posed by contemporary art in the museum context. 
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Topics in Museum Studies: Blockbusters and Building Booms, 1970-Present MSMS-GA 3330  Basilio. 4points.
This course will analyze the historical development of the modern blockbuster exhibition, beginning with Thomas Hoving’s programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Case studies of landmark exhibitions, their critical reception, and debates regarding their effect on museum practice, management, curators’ roles, scholarship, and ethics, will be discussed. Critics have compared the boom of such exhibitions during the 1980s-2000 to the proliferation of building expansion or new buildings as a related phenomenon. Such architectural projects may be examined as part of broader initiatives such as re-branding and audience development that have also been linked to the blockbuster phenomenon. Although the case studies will primarily include museums in the US recent projects abroad, such as the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi,will be discussed. Recent challenges faced by museums have led to new formulations of the blockbuster genre, such as The Museum of Modern Art’s Abstract Expressionism show, which draw on permanent collections as the primary attraction. These innovations as well as current problems related to international museum building projects will conclude the course. Extensive readings, writing and group presentation assignments, and a research paper are required for this course. Depending on exhibitions on view in the Fall, museum visits will also be required.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Cultural Property, Rights and Museums MSMS-GA 3330  Staff. 4 points.
What does it mean to own or have a culture? Are all cultures the same? Is owning your culture a basic human right? This course will investigate the growing discussions about cultural property rights that have emerged in the context of museum practices, from collection and display to conservation and archiving. A general analysis of concepts of culture, property, and rights related to these materials and social domains, will be offset by sessions that examine how different understanding of entitlements may be negotiated within museum spaces and how museum objects (broadly defined) may be understood as cultural resources. Special focus will be the impact of legislation; political events such as war; indigenous rights movements; international conceptions of intellectual and cultural property; and the commodity transaction and the marketplace, and on their impact on museum practice.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and Political Conflict MSMS-GA 3330  Feldman. 4 points.
In contemporary Museum Studies, it is often said that museums are inherently political institutions. But how do politics actually happen in museums? What has "politics" meant for key exhibitions and collections and what avenues of political theory emerge from the museum in general? In this seminar, we will move beyond the general to examine how specific political concepts took shape in historic exhibitions and museum practices from the 1930s to the present. As such, our challenge will be twofold. On the one hand, we will consider how political movements have used the museums as an implement for advancing power and influence. On the other hand, we will consider how museum practices have "taken up" various kinds of politics: how museum objects and officials have engaged and advocated the agendas and outcomes of political parties, governments, policies, revolutions, and elections. Case studies will include: Degenerate Art (1937), Paris World Exhibition (1937), Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads" (1934), The Guggenheim Museum (1959), Yad Vashem (1965), Harlem on my Mind (1969), The Perfect Moment (1990), The Last Act (1994), The Jewish Museum of Bologna(1998), Sensation (1999), The Apartheid Museum (2001), Holocaust Cartoons (2006), among others. Through these case studies, students will examine the museum's role in the public sphere and the process whereby exhibitions contribute to -- or undermined -- key aspects of deliberative democracy.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and Community MSMS-GA 3330  Wharton. 4 points.
There has been a turn towards community engagement in recent museum practice. Museum programming today often includes community outreach, civic activism, and community participation in its core activities. This trend manifests in all aspects of museum activity, including exhibition, education, research, and collections care. This course investigates the theoretical underpinnings of community engagement, along with its practical outcomes. It builds an understanding of community programming in the context of critical museum theory. Student projects include a critique of a community-based museum program and a research paper on community engagement in museum practice.
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Topics in Museum Studies: Collecting and Exhibiting Latin American Art in the United States, 1931-present MSMS-GA 3330  Basilio. 4 points.
We will closely examine selected exhibitions held in United States museums that have shaped the definition of "Latin American art." Is the trans-national category "Latin American" art a product of survey exhibitions and museum collecting? If so, how does this affect the way artists' works and the history of art in individual countries are regarded? Why does "Latin American art" get "re-discovered" periodically, and what political and economic developments affect patronage and exhibitions? How has The Museum of Modern Art in particular played a pivotal role in defining Late American art since it began exhibiting and collecting in the 1930s?
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Topics in Museum Studies: Museums and Indigenous Peoples MSMS-GA 3330  Staff. 4 points.
This course examines changing relationships between indigenous peoples and museums as well as other display institutions. We will begin by positioning the representation of indigenous peoples in terms of imperialist and nationalist histories, and to move on to an examination of movements to reclaim objects, identity, and rights through efforts at self-representation. We will consider both independent and cooperative self-representation projects, focusing particularly on cases in the Americas and the Pacific, but taking on other geographic regions as student interests and available materials allow; we will attend to both the possibilities and limits of projects to reorganize practices, products, and expectations of representation. Topics will include globalization, multiculturalism, and nationalism; colonial-era display in museums and world's fairs; the critique of primitivism; decolonizing methodologies; self-determination, land claims, and economic development; repatriation and intangible cultural heritage; and contemporary art and public culture. Assignments will include weekly reading assignments, group and independent museum visits, a critical exhibition review, and a final paper or planning project.
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Exhibition Planning and Design MSMS-GA 3332  Gallagher. 4 points.
This course will focus on the planning, development and design of exhibitions, permanent, temporary and traveling. It is a participatory class where students will learn basic exhibition design techniques, including spacial layouts and the use of graphics, audio-visual aids, lighting, colors, materials, and fabrication methods. Students will gain insight into exhibition planning and development and the roles played by various museum professionals. There will be visits to designers to discuss their work and to museums and other venues to analyze exhibition design techniques. Individual student projects will provide hands-on experience.
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Museums and Contemporary Art MSMS-GA 3335  Altshuler. 4 points.
This course investigates historical, theoretical, and practical aspects of the collecting and exhibiting of contemporary art in museums. Topics include curatorial strategies for exhibition and collection development, biennialism, the art market, conservation issues, artworks that take the museum as subject, public and relational art, and conflicts of interest that arise for museum staff and trustees. A familiarity with international contemporary art is required. Assignments include two short essays, class presentations, and a final paper.
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Research in Museum Studies MSMS-GA 3915  Altshuler. 1-4 points.
Independent research on a topic determined in consultation with the program director.
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