Museum Studies

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The museum studies program is designed to help students explore the theory and practice of museums in the contemporary world, with emphasis on the stewardship of collections and the creation of exhibits, interpretive programs, and educational outreach services. Museology is inherently multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary, benefiting from knowledge and experience in the fine arts, sciences, history, anthropology, education, computer science, design, marketing, finance, and other fields. The museum world is richly varied: in addition to the familiar museum categories of art, history, natural history, technology and science museums, there are many similar institutions including national and state parks, zoos, botanical gardens, aquariums, and children’s museums. The program’s offerings will help prepare students for their future understanding of and contribution to the realm of museums.

The program is a cross-disciplinary study area with course offerings across several disciplines. The required core course, “Introduction to Museum Studies” (MUST 200), is offered each fall. Formal declaration of intent to complete the program’s requirements must be preceded by completion of the core course or by consent of the program coordinator. Students are advised to declare their participation and plan their program’s make-up in consultation with the program coordinator as early as possible but no later than by the beginning of the first semester of the senior year.


To complete a minor in the museum studies program, students must satisfy the following requirements designed to acquire the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience intended for the program.

  1. General College Requirements (see “Curriculum” section).
  2. All requirements of the chosen major field.
  3. One required four-credit, 200-level course, “Introduction to Museum Studies” (MUST 200), offered annually.
  4. At least 12 hours of appropriate electives with museum studies focus, eight of which need to be upper-division, selected from at least two disciplines. Completion of a single eight-credit internship in a museum-related area of study; upon approval of the program coordinator, two four-credit internships may be substituted.

Elective courses with a museum studies focus are offered in desciplines such as history, anthropology, art history, art, computer science, biology, chemistry, education, geology, geography, museum stories, religious studies, etc. A complete list of these will appear in the online "Schedule of Classes."

As part of their participation in museum studies, students undertake an eight-credit internship. Possible internship locations include the Boyden Gallery and Teaching Collection, Historic St. Mary’s City, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, Sotterley Plantation, Calvert Marine Museum, St. Mary’s County museums, and other nearby cultural institutions.

The Martin E. Sullivan Museum Scholars Program. was established in 2009 in honor of Martin E. Sullivan, who served as the director of the Historic St. Mary’s City Commission from 1999 until 2008. Sullivan is a nationally recognized museum professional and is currently director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.

The Sullivan Scholars program recognizes students of exceptional promise by providing opportunities to explore the field of museum studies in a museum setting. Sullivan Scholars are eligible for paid internships and other stipends. In addition, the Sullivan Scholars program brings prominent museum professionals to St. Mary’s for a variety of special programs serving museum studies minors, the college community, and the larger southern Maryland community.

Rising second-, third-, and fourth-year students are invited on an annual basis to apply to the program. Applicants must have completed “Introduction to Museum Studies” (MUST 200), be a declared Museum Studies minor, and meet certain other academic requirements, including maintenance of a GPA of at least 3.5.

Successful applicants will be placed in museum settings at the local, regional, or global level, including at Historic St. Mary’s City and the College’s Dwight Frederic Boyden Gallery. The Museum Studies Program will maintain a list of appropriate museums for placement, although the expectation is that, given the College’s academic requirements, most students will select HSMC or the Boyden Gallery as their preferred site. On-the-job training and evaluation will occur during the student’s time of service, and may include field trips and research assignments. Anthropology, archaeology, art, art history, history, historic preservation, and science are natural areas of emphasis.

For more information on the Sullivan Scholars program, contact the Museum Studies program coordinator.

Students may pursue their St. Mary’s Project in museum studies with the permission of their major department and with a museum studies faculty member serving as mentor or co-mentor. St. Mary’s Project credit (eight hours) does not apply toward fulfillment of the curriculum requirements of the program.


MUST 200. Introduction to Museum Studies (4F)

This course considers museums—their history, social context, and their challenges—in the 21st century. The format is seminar-style, based on case studies, field trips, readings, and a class project. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the course examines the roles that a broad range of museum types play in society: the diversity of collections, exhibitions, and interpretation techniques; management and marketing challenges; visitor behavior and learning; virtual museums; and museum ethics, law, and controversies. This course fulfills the Core Curriculum requirement in Arts.

MUST 301. Interpreting History to the Public (4F)

This course explores the theory and method of public history, museum education and interpretation in general with Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) as a model where appropriate. The course combines discussion, presentations, and readings with a practicum at the HSMC living history sites. Through the practicum, students develop practical skills used to design, implement, and evaluation programs in history museums.

MUST 390. Topics in Museum Studies

This course provides analysis of substantive issues in museum studies. Topics will vary each semester the course is offered and reflect current interests of students and the instructor. May be repeated for credit if the topic is not duplicated. For a description of each course, see the current online “Schedule of Classes.”

MUST 398, 498, Museum Studies Internship (8E)

The internship provides direct hands-on and academic experience in a museum environment selected by the student, approved by the program coordinator, mentored by a member of the museum studies steering committee, and formalized in a learning contract. The internship may be undertaken in a nearby institution, but further afield and abroad as well.