Beyond the collections, annual memberships, and traveling exhibits, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes at the world’s museums, and a new Colgate minor in museum studies seeks to dive deep into the operation, ethics, and history of museums around the globe.
“I want to learn more about how museums can be active players in influencing the public perception of history and social change,” said newly declared museum studies minor Emily Kahn ’19. “I know that the minor will continue to challenge my personal biases and introduce me to new perspectives as a result of its interdisciplinary nature.”
For Claire Pandaleon ’18, art has always been an important part of her life, and by taking on a museum studies minor, she has now put that love of art into learning a skillset that could one day lead to something more.
“Prior to my sophomore year at Colgate, I planned to pursue psychology and keep art history on the side as an area of interest,” Pandaleon said. “The courses and professors within the art history department caused me to consider turning this life-long passion into a serious career option.”
The new minor program consists of five courses and a practicum of at least 140 hours of volunteer or paid internship work. All five courses may come from a list of core courses, which includes select courses in art history, anthropology, and history; or four from the core course list and one from an elective list, which includes options in classics, chemistry, geography, geology, neuroscience, peace and conflict studies, philosophy, and writing and rhetoric.
Associate Professor of Art and Art History Elizabeth Marlowe said that the genesis of the new interdisciplinary minor was a single, popular course called Museums, offered in the art and art history department.
“Several of us in the department loved to teach it, but we all taught it differently, with different emphases, and we started to realize that it could be three or four different courses,” Marlowe said.
Courses are now in the works or on the books in Museum Architecture, Critical Museum Theory, Modern Art on Display, and several other topics. Marlowe was also inspired by cross-disciplinary connections between those courses and Jordan Kerber’s Museum Anthropology course and Michelle Bigenho’s course, Who Owns Culture?, both taught in the sociology and anthropology department, and Xan Karn’s course on the Politics of History, taught in the history department.
Marlowe also sees the program as a reflection of broader intellectual trends. “This, in many ways, is one of the directions that the humanities is going. Rather than thinking about art as something that stands alone, we are now paying more attention to the institutions through which we access these great works of art and how that has framed our perceptions.”