On the Common-Wealth of Libraries, Archives and Museums:
Reinventing the Graduate Degree Program in Museology
On the Common-Wealth of Libraries, Archives and Museums:
Reinventing the Graduate Degree Program in Museology
Table of Contents
I. Introduction 1
II. Identifying the Common-Wealth: Interrelatedness of LAMs 2
III. A Survey of Existing Degree Programs in Museology and their
Various Implementations 3
IV. A Vision for Museums and Museology in University Settings 4
V. A Theoretical Framework for Museum Pedagogy 6
VI. Curriculum 8
a. Foundations of Museology 9
b. Museum Research and Evaluation 11
c. Exhibition Development 11
d. Collection Development 12
e. Digital Curation 14
f. Museum Education 14
g. Museum Management 14
h. Information Technologies in Museums 15
i. Museum Internship 15
j. Independent Study 16
VII. The Future of Museums 16
Recent and ongoing research—including the work of the Museum Learning
Collaborative (MLC)1—examines the specific and theoretical junctions of museums and
education, ultimately defining the role of the museum as an informal education center in
which publics learn about the world around them through objects.2 As Kenneth Hudson
theorized, “the most fundamental change that has affected museums during the [past] half
century...is the now almost universal conviction that they exist in order to serve the
public.”3 This recent trend to highlight the services museums offer has buried the
constitutional philosophy of the field: the work performed in museums is undertaken for
the collections as much as it is for the public. While some researchers attempt to identify
the benefits of studying academic disciplines (e.g. archaeology, art history, anatomy, or
ethnology) through museum collections, this study inverts that relationship and asks how
academic study might benefit museums. Innovative graduate programs are now making
better use of museum resources, but the focus is on how material culture can provide for
us a more rooted, more comprehensive understanding of a subject, not how we can
Museum Learning Collaborative, “Philosophy and Purpose,” MLC,
Gaea Leinhardt, Leona Schauble and L. Schauble, “A Framework for Organizing a Cumulative Research
Agenda in Informal Learning Contexts,” Journal of Museum Education 22, no. 2-3 (1998).
Kenneth Hudson, “The Museum Refuses to Stand Still,” Museum International 197 (Jan.-Mar. 1998), 43.
provide for material culture. Traditionally, we have used museum spaces and the
outcomes of museum practice to develop our own academic and personal interests; now
is the time to give back and contribute the principles of our disciplines and the tools of
our trades towards the improvement of museology.
In that spirit, this paper claims that libraries and archives share stakeholder status
in the continuing relevance of museums. Together, libraries, archives and museums
(LAMs)4 are stewards of information and collective knowledge. The purpose of this
research is to support the much-needed treatment of museology (or the systematic study
of museum functions, organization, and management) as a legitimate academic
discipline. Specifically, I will examine the intersections of principles and practices in
librarianship, archival science and museology, and the ways in which universities can
facilitate LAM collaboration with sustained, institutional support. A survey of existing
museology graduate degree programs will assess the potential benefits and shortcomings
of various implementations, leading to a theoretical foundation for re-imagining the
discipline. Finally, this research will culminate in the design of a curriculum for
museology offered within an integrated LAM program model.
Identifying the Common-Wealth: Interrelatedness of LAMs
Largely ignored in research is how libraries, archives and museums have recently
undergone changes resulting in overlapping principles. Formalizing their
interdependence is an idea that warrants further discussion. Traditionally, museums
differed most from libraries and archives in that their holdings were essentially object-
oriented as opposed to textual, but the incorporation of digital media has blurred this
distinction in terms of what constitutes a collection and how it is presented. Like libraries
and archives, museums have been impacted by “recent shifts in understanding about the
nature of learning, the creation of knowledge, and the methods of instructional delivery.”5
The ability to create, capture and modify information in digital formats, and
communicate, discover, retrieve, and interact with information in digital environments
has had a profound impact. Museum visitors expect to actively engage in meaning-
making, re-presentation, and commentary, and even to experience the museum from
anywhere in the world. The public is no longer content to passively receive information
in manufactured displays where observation is guided or supervised and holdings are
presented alongside authoritative interpretation. The same could be said of libraries and
archives. Identifying shared values, practices, and challenges in libraries, archives and
museums illustrates why collaboration is critical to sustaining the relevance of these
institutions in a changing information landscape.
Museums and libraries both participate in mounting exhibits, providing equitable
access, and designing the architecture, or physical spaces in which they are situated.
The abbreviation “LAM” can also refer to librarianship, archival science, and museology. In some
instances, it may even function grammatically as an adjective (e.g. a LAM model for instruction). Care is
taken to avoid this initialism where there is insufficient context to prevent confusion.
ICTOP, “Curricula Guidelines for Professional Development,” revised edition, 2008, ICOM,
“As stewards of cultural heritage, information and ideas, museums and
libraries have traditionally played a vital role in helping us experience,
explore, discover and make sense of the world. That role is now more
essential than ever. Through building technological infrastructure and
strengthening community relationships, libraries and museums can offer
the public unprecedented access and expertise in transforming information
overload into knowledge.”6
Museums, archives, and special collections in libraries are all concerned with
preservation, research, and acquisition. LAMs are dedicated to preserving cultural
memory and heritage, and to some degree require attention to selection, acquisition,
organization, storage, preservation, presentation, and access. It is useful as an exercise to
imagine museums as public archives, blending the roles and practices of libraries and
archives: their front-end functions (providing public access, showcasing collections,
working with local communities, and developing education programs) resemble library
work whereas their back-end activities in preservation and storage are more archival in
nature. New developments in digital technologies and their implications for access to
collections have fuelled the demand for cross-disciplinary coalitions. “When the objects
of concern are digital files, the possibilities for sharing best practices for managing digital
collections and learning from each other are wide open.”7 In the Information Age,
museums, libraries and archives find themselves at a critical juncture in which
collaboration can secure their continued relevance as they renegotiate their roles as
facilitators of information exchange and protectors of human knowledge and creativity.
A Survey of Existing Degree Programs in Museology and their Various
In pioneering a new orientation to a fledgling discipline, a great deal of research is
required before planning for its design, implementation, and continued institutional
support. There is no clear consensus on what a museology program should look like:
even the myriad of inconsistent naming conventions for these degree titles seems to
suggest a lack of uniformity in developing museology as an academic field. An
examination of graduate program web sites illustrates possible variations of museology
There are currently only two museum studies degree programs operating in
Canada, one offered in French and the other in English. L'Université de Montréal8 takes
a services-based view that places the relationship with the public at the center of museum
operations and considerations. The University of Toronto’s museum studies prospectus
most closely resembles a LAM system. Established in 2006 and situated within the
Faculty of Information, the program of study “provides students with a strong theoretical
background and professional understanding of museum origins, ideologies, changing
Institute of Museum and Library Services, “About us,” IMLS, http://www.imls.gov/about/about.shtm
Digital Curation Curriculum, “Papers and presentations,” University of North Carolina,
Université Laval Departement d’histoire, “Les études en muséology,” Université Laval,
philosophies and current practices. Students attain comprehensive knowledge of the
function of museums in their broader social and cultural context and a methodology for
research.”9 The Faculty allows students working towards a Master of Information degree
to specialize in Library and Information Science, Archives and Records Management,
Critical Information Studies, Information Systems and Design, and Knowledge
Management and Information Management. Currently, the Faculty of Information at the
University of Toronto is examining ways to more fully integrate museology as a key
participating component in the systematic study of information. Most museum studies
offerings, however, are partnered with other cognate disciplines supplying
specializations, elective courses, or loose associations. Some examples of these include
architecture, arts management, biology (including botany, entomology and zoology),
cultural history, entertainment and media management, nonprofit administration, and
public history. It is a testament to the value of museum collections and the appeal of
nonprofit work that nearly every academic field has found an engaging partner in
museum studies. In the North American context, museum issues or their materials have
made their way into nearly every academic field imaginable. What these applications
share in common is—albeit rudimentary in some cases—an interdisciplinary
methodology. Stronger examples of genuine multidisciplinary applications in well-
defined museology degree programs include:
Museology and Anthropology10
Museology and Art History11
Museology and Historic Preservation12
Museology and History13
Some graduate programs have opted for greater specialization in the field, offering
programs in curatorial studies, historic preservation, museum communication, museum
education, museum exhibition, museum management, and museum science.
A Vision for Museums and Museology in University Settings
The idea of the common-wealth of LAMs, which hinges on a commonality of
purpose, implies opportunities for co-operation, and universities are in a unique position
to lay the foundation for this enterprise. A holistic approach to libraries, archives and
University of Toronto Faculty of Information, “Master of Museum Studies Program of Study,” University
of Toronto, http://www.ischool.utoronto.ca/programs-courses/master-of-museum-studies/program-of-study.
Arizona State University, http://shesc.asu.edu/museum_anthropology; California State University,
University of Denver, http://www.du.edu/ahss/schools/anthropology/programs/Masters-
University of Denver School of Art and Art History, “Concentration in Museum Studies,” University of
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, “Historic Preservation and Museum Studies,” University of
North Carolina at Greensboro, http://www.uncg.edu/hpms/
Buffalo State University, “History and Museum Studies,” Buffalo State University,
museums yields promising results at the institutional level, including added value,
prestige and currency in an increasingly competitive education market. Bridging cultural
divisions between universities (situated in the realm of the printed word) and museums (with
their focus on objects as tools for learning) will promote research and education, the common
fundamental building blocks of their missions.14 Often, the “availability of rich museum
and library collections to enhance the education of […] undergraduate and graduate
students is tempered by the lengths to which faculty and students must often go to
discover and integrate them into courses and research.”15 The centralization and
streamlining of the virtual and physical collections and services of the university’s
libraries, archives and museums would profoundly impact all research performed by
students and professors across departments. This idea is currently being investigated by
the RLG Programs project, “Organizational and Service Relationships on the LAM.”16
Yale University’s Office of Digital Assets and Infrastructure oversees complementary
digitization projects, provides cross-collections searching, and creates shared physical
spaces for preservation labs and exhibits.17 Similar ventures met with great success in
overcoming fragmented services at the University of Edinburgh, University of Aberdeen,
Princeton University, and the University of British Columbia.
To strengthen the relationships between libraries, archives and museums,
universities should actively encourage members of their communities to “analyse the
nature, needs and strengths of potential collaborators” and “envision what ‘fits’ with
those collaborators and might truly be mutually beneficial.”18 Academic institutions—as
sites of scholarship and formal learning—can foster these partnerships in their local
communities, across services, and across departments. Most research on LAMs examines
administrative and functional convergences of LAM institutions as opposed to the
possibilities for collections-based and pedagogical convergences in academic contexts.
Universities can play a greater role in the general development of the library, archive and
museum fields by organizing LAMs into a unified academic program within a department
where these disciplines may be taught based on their parallel principles and practices.
Just as this paper outlines the merits and characteristics of LAM convergences in
university programming, students exposed to the three branches of knowledge will have
the opportunity to examine them in a broader, yet richer context and build on the
traditional skill sets of their individual specialties. “New sets of skills will be required,”
Weil suggests, as museums “evolve fully from an inwardly turned institution concerned
chiefly with the preservation and study of its collection to an outwardly focused
institution primarily devoted to providing a public service.”19 No matter how the balance
is tipped, museum work will continue to demand attentiveness to collections and the
public. The LAM model is the best suited for imparting these competencies to emerging
F.S. Kaplan, “Moving Target,” Museum News (Jan/Feb, 1992), 64-8.
Günter Waibel, comment on “Organizational and Service Relationships on the LAM,” HangingTogether
RLG Programs Blog, comment posted on July 30, 2007, http://hangingtogether.org/?p=242.
Research Libraries Group, “Organization and Service Relationships on the LAM Project,” OCLC,
Yale University Office of Public Affairs, “New Office will Coordinate Digitization of Yale Resources,”
Yale Bulletin, September 26, 2008, http://opa.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=6050.
Stephen Weil, “Training for Tomorrow’s Museums,” New Directions in Professional Museum Education
and Training, ed. Saskia Brown, ICTOP Study Series 10 (Groeninghe, Belgium: ICOM, 2002), 7
museum professionals, as they will benefit from exploring the primarily inwardly
centered organizational culture of archives (with its focus on preservation) and the
generally outwardly centered organizational culture of libraries (with its focus on
A Theoretical Framework for Museum Pedagogy
In this section, I will provide a theoretical foundation for the design and
implementation of a museology specialization as part of a LAM approach to information
Musealisation in the theoretical approach of special museology is reduced
to the analytical interest in those characteristics of an object which are the
object of study and investigation by a scientific discipline. Due to this, the
practical instructions for activities in specialized museums do not have the
comprehensive museological character contemporary museology
Contemporary museology demands treatment of objects as transmitters of information,
for which meaning is determined by context, not by inherent qualities of the object.
Maroevic illustrates a critical issue echoed in the survey’s findings: with the staggering
number of different museology adoptions in universities, common sense would hold that
some are more effective than others, and that some instances of this interdisciplinarity
poorly grasp or impede applications of museological methods. Many of these schools of
thought focus exclusively on the object and lack the tools to adequately convey the
complex structures and contexts of museum collections and the spaces they occupy.
Pedagogical divergences—gaps or alternative emphases in course content, dissimilar
mission statements, goals or objectives—expose profound theoretical differences
between museology and professedly complementary disciplines. Archaeological
methods stress field work, material culture, classification, and preservation, but not
presentation or access. Pedagogies in art history are typically celebratory and object-
oriented in a way that emphasizes observable aesthetic value (but not the intangible
documentary value) and select, learnable contexts. Similar to Maroevic’s example of
analytic authority in a scientific pairing, the social sciences tend to stipulate the
production of meaning thereby restricting possibilities for learning through museum
collections. The perceived need of approaching museum work through these subject-
specific disciplines is based on “conventions that have long distinguished art,
ethnological, and history museums.”21 If in re-imagining museum objects, we find that
their basic properties and functions are consistent and defined more by their form than
their subject, then these distinctions begin to disappear and new possibilities emerge.
Effective museum practices require interdisciplinary contextualization, but perhaps the
most promising association has gone generally unnoticed and untested.
Ivo Maroevic, “Museology as a Field of Knowledge,” Cahiers d’étude, ICOFOM Study Series 8
(Groeninghe, Belgium: ICOM, 2000), 8.
George Washington University Museum Studies Program, “Museum Studies Courses,”
From a theoretical standpoint, museology and information studies are mutually
beneficial. In line with fundamental principles of information studies, museums “deal
with the object itself, collections of objects and with all the possible relations which the
object entertains within a specific context.”22 It is essential that we reinvent our
pedagogies and begin to view museum collections through this lens. This application
allows audiences to relate to items in museum collections as information objects;
traditional learning models treat museum materials as discrete entities, useful insofar as
their surface-level qualities and their ability to animate a singular reading of a historical
context. “Every object is in part a historic document. It contains information about the
materials from which it was made, the way in which it was assembled, and every incident
which occurred in its life.”23 Objects contain evidence just as much as paper and
electronic records. Interpreting and presenting this information, however, is often
problematic, but more so without a basis in the principles of collection, classification,
preservation, and access used by libraries and archives. Museum collections can support
scholarship and education that rely on textual records of information. In today’s digital
environments and with technology-driven learning in classrooms, this is not only more
feasible but more imperative for the development of knowledge and learning in all
disciplines. The evolving field of information studies now applies its principles and
methods to a wide range of assets such as tacit knowledge, audiovisual materials, web
content, e-mail and other born-digital electronic records. It must now acknowledge
museum objects in the same manner.
“Given the increasing amount of digital content held in museums, including
digitized images of collections, multimedia art, and digital content held in
science museums, there appears to be a significant gap between the education
of information specialists who will work in museum settings and the realities
they will be facing in the workplace.”24
Bridging this gap requires a shared knowledge set between museum and information
studies. While museology promises to extend the inclusiveness and comprehensiveness
of information studies, the methodological underpinnings of information studies will
“help museology to define its tasks and research objectives more systematically.”25
Work must be performed to construct a system of procedures for the development and
implementation of a museology program of study that not just supplements but
complements library and archival learning.
Ivo Maroevic, “Museology as a Field of Knowledge,” 5.
Chris Caple, Conservation Skills: Judgement, Method and Decision Making (New York: Routledge,
Helen Tibbo and W. Duff, “Toward a Digital Curation Curriculum for Museum Studies: a North
American Perspective” (paper presented at annual conference of CIDOC, September 15-18, 2008),
Ivo Maroevic, “Museology as a Field of Knowledge,” 6.
The design of a complete museology curriculum emphasizing information studies
methodologies should consider standards for best practices advocated by organizations
comprised of museum professionals and instructors. It should also recognize the
limitations of these guidelines, particularly when a new application for museum learning
has been formulated. Curriculum building must maintain as its focus the unique
conception and context of the museology degree in development. The right path towards
course planning should firmly plant at its starting point the pedagogical roots of the
particular proposal. The development of the program and its deliverables should evince
documented core values. The idea of documentation has proven urgently important for
this work: few universities disseminate any documentation on the considerations and
processes that were involved at the program planning stage. It is difficult to advance the
academic status of museology in any form without knowing what outcomes have been
projected, how universities expected to meet these outcomes, and in what ways they
either failed or succeeded. As an alternative, universities are expected to mimic existing
curricula and broadly-oriented curricula standards. This severely restricts the ability of
newly created programs to be responsive to the most recent disciplinary developments
and ensure innovativeness, even during a time of profound shifts in museum practice.
The International Committee for Museology drafted its first set of curricula
guidelines in 1971 under the title, Basic Syllabus for Professional Museum Training.26 It
would take another six years, however, before a committee was formed to promote the
recognition of museology as a systematic discipline taught in universities.27 The most
current list of proposed guidelines (still under review) continues to favor ongoing or mid-
career professional development. Furthermore, the popular treatment of museology as
vocational education or something of an applied science impedes its legitimacy as an
academic field. A curriculum based on the theory previously discussed and developed
for the LAM context must depart from the training-based epistemology that underlies the
ICOM guidelines in favor of a model that espouses theory as much as practice.
The aim of this research has been to construct a curriculum that balances
professional and academic instruction, incorporates emerging areas of interest for the
future of museums, and emphasizes the most important competencies required for
museum work. Recent scholarship in museum learning theory informed the professional-
academic balance of this curriculum. Emerging considerations in the field were
discovered in conference proceedings and LISTSERV® e-mail lists including H-
Museum,28 Museum-Ed,29 MCN-L,30 and ICOM-L.31 Functional requirements were
determined by measuring the frequency of their inclusion in existing degree programs.
This curriculum also gives priority to critical skills for museum work shared by either
libraries or archives, or both.
ICOM, Basic Syllabus for Professional Museum Training (1971),
International Council for Museology, “About ICOFOM,” ICOFOM,
Humanities and Social Sciences Online, “H-Museum,” H-Net, http://www.h-net.org/~museum/
Museum-Ed, “Discussion List,” Museum-Ed, http://www.museum-ed.org/content/blogcategory/32/66/
Museum Computer Network, “MCN-L,” MCN, http://www.mcn.edu/resources/index.asp?subkey=80
International Council of Museums, “ICOM-L,” ICOM, http://icom.museum/distlists.html
This LAM model museology curriculum takes the form of syllabi with
descriptions of purposes, learning outcomes, sequence of topics, activities, evaluation
techniques for each course. Coverage is informed by course syllabi, standards for best
practices prepared by professional associations, and a working knowledge of
librarianship and archival studies. Tibbo and Duff placed main themes in a hierarchy
based on their appeal factor and perceived usefulness as measured in student survey
research.32 These topics are marked with an asterisk. Areas requiring the least emphasis
are education, interpretation, information management, and fundraising and marketing.
Students in the field were most interested in preparation for positions as directors and
managers, and in learning about new technologies and media. In order to optimize appeal
and impact, implementation should be customized according to these recent findings as
well as measured local interest.
Theory must remain an integral part of all formal museum instruction because of
the need for critical scholarship in restructuring the discipline as we forge ahead into the
21st century. Every course stresses practical skills, especially in those areas of museum
work considered necessary for all or most professionals. Practice, however, is largely
limited to student-driven, community-based experiential learning like internships.
Courses requiring hands-on or on-site practice should provide sufficient flexibility to
allow students to customize and direct their own learning. A committee comprised of
LAM instructors should periodically review and refine their curriculum to ensure that the
program is at the forefront of new developments in theory and practice and affords
students opportunities to conduct innovative and meaningful research. Where there are
duplicated efforts in librarianship or archival science, instruction can be generalized to a
common set of needs in core courses taken by all LAM students. As a final note, I have
taken care where possible to integrate information studies vocabulary to facilitate
adoption: “building this curriculum is an attempt “not only “to map […] the necessary
functions and skills [common] among the library, archives, and museum domains, but to
translate the terminology that represents these functions.”33
Foundations of Museology
The introductory course should provide a general overview of the history,
functions, activities, and context of museums. A successful course will introduce the
terminology and basic concepts needed for in-depth, critical study in museology. At the
beginning of the course, students might be asked to write an informal response in which
they share their personal interest in museology, a memorable museum experience, and
their expectations for the course and program.
Initial instruction should cover definitions, roles, functions, and overall operations
of museums. George Washington University, as an example, recommends an exploration
of the “development of museums as authoritative institutions that define and mediate
cultural knowledge, aesthetic value, even national identity through selection, display, and
Helen Tibbo and W. Duff, “Toward a Digital Curation Curriculum for Museum Studies: a North
American Perspective” (paper presented at annual conference of CIDOC, September 15-18, 2008),
interpretation of objects.”34 In an information context, museums are engaged in the
selection, acquisition, organization, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of material
information and immaterial cultural knowledge. An important topic to cover is the
historical evolution of museums and related institutions, including the documented and
theoretical intersections of museums, libraries and archives. This topic might also
include discussion of museum settings and architecture. The history of libraries, archives
and museums could also be offered as a separate elective course culminating in a research
paper and presentation that allows students to explore a topic of personal interest in
detail. Introducing the typology of museums encourages students to consider preferred
work environments that might direct their research interests for the remainder of the
program. This topic should briefly define the following types with visual aides:
Local history museums
Historic homes and monuments
Living history sites
Museums in situ
Open air museums
Natural history museums
It is not uncommon to offer elective courses related to a specific museum context, such as
national museums,36 but a museology program in a LAM model should not overload
course selections with instruction on subject-specific (e.g. natural history museums) or
context-specific (e.g. living history sites) museums. A conversation about typography
could lead into a review of local museums and their web sites so that students can begin
to consider employment and internship placement. This idea of the broader context can
also be relayed with a few words on:
George Washington University Museum Studies Program, “Museum Studies Courses,” GWU,
Some examples of specialized museums include literary, anthropology, health, maritime, music, war, and
For foundational readings on the subject of national museums, consider the Roger Kennedy and Annie
Coombes articles in Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).
Benefits of participation in professional associations
Value of community involvement and the museum professional’s obligation to the
Importance of lifelong learning through career development opportunities to
remain au courant with the latest developments in the field.
Finally, students should expect to examine mission statements, the structure of the
museum, and various professions and their qualifications.
Museum Research and Evaluation*
Topics in research and evaluation are essential in order to familiarize emerging
museum professionals with museum writing, resources for museology research, and
evaluation techniques. This unit should be integrated into a Research Methods course
and Information Sources course for all LAM students.
Museum exhibitions should invite reflection, provoke reaction, and instill wonder.
As the displays of collections, they are the primary means by which audiences receive
and interact with information sources. This course introduce students to the theories of
exhibition development. Key concepts include planning and the selection of materials
and related textual information, abstracting and annotating, interpretation, label writing,
installation, maintenance of long-term exhibitions, promotion, ethics, and evaluation.
Students will analyze these issues for traveling, interactive, virtual, and temporary and
long-term on-site exhibits. The course will cover methods of interpretation of visual and
material culture, considerations for multimedia, exhibitions and technology, and
partnering with other museums. Students should also learn to “build effective design
documents, and how exhibit team members contribute to the exhibit design and planning
process.” 37 Visits to museums are vital in this course, though incidental in all others
listed in this curriculum. Evaluations of exhibits in local museums or the university’s
museums are part of a standard learning outcome in museology curricula. Students
would need to infer the claims and biases of the curators; analyze the exhibit’s
organization and design; discuss how the objects, design, and associated text convey
information; compare similar exhibits; and make recommendations for improvements.
These critiques should demonstrate an understanding of basic exhibition development
principles. Building on this work, students will design and construct virtual exhibits in
small groups that include interpretive web content, a multimedia element, and visual
resources found in libraries and archives (e.g. a virtual exhibit of card catalogs). Students
will need to document all processes as would be performed in a museum setting, from the
planning and selection stage to interpretation and finally installation.
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, “Course Descriptions and Curriculum Plans,” IUPUI,
The collection development course provides an introduction to museum
collections, their management and care. While fundamental functions and activities in
collection development remain relatively unchanged in the LAM framework, students
should be expected to extend their knowledge of library and archival principles to
theories of objects and collections. In-class discussion and a writing assignment should
cover some of the following questions:
What is an object?38 Is an object different from an item? What are examples of
museum objects? What qualities should all object share? How are objects
different from art works? How are objects different from the material holdings of
libraries and archives?
How does something become a museum object? Can anything be an object? An
automobile? Homes? Clothing? Teeth? Architectural rubble? Barbed wire?
Medicine? Food? Windows? Living animals? Microbes?
When does an aggregation become a collection? What do we need to consider in
acquisition and appraisal? When and why deaccession? What are the functions
of objects as part of a museum collection? What is the relationship of museum
collections to library collections and archives?
Leinhardt and Crowley continue to debate the most important qualities of objects
with their ideas about authenticity, scale, and “resolution and density of
information.”39 (Leinhardt and Crowley, 2-3) What is the informational value of
objects? What are the their most important qualities or characteristics as
information objects? How can museum present those aspects?
What about intangible heritage?40 (e.g. holidays, storytelling, dance, festivals,
How might the theoretical understandings of these concepts impact museum
policies and practice? In terms of description? Organization? Exhibit
construction? Interactivity? Learning experiences? Conservation? Digital re-
Elaine Heumann Gurian, “What Is the Object of This Exercise? A Meandering Exploration of the Many
Meanings of Objects in Museums,” Reinventing the Museum: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
on the Paradigm Shift, ed. Gail Anderson (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004), 269-284.
Gaea Leinhardt and Kevin Crowley, “Objects of Learning, Objects of Talk: Changing Minds in
Museums,” Multiple Perspectives on Children’s Object-Centered Learning, ed. S. Paris (Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, in press), 2-3, http://www.museumlearning.org/leinhardtcrowley.pdf
UNESCO, “Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” UNESCO
(May 18, 2001), http://www.unesco.org/bpi/intangible_heritage/backgrounde.htm
This course must also cover cataloging standards and the importance of
documentation of all activities and policies (including accessioning, object provenance,
exhibition histories, conservation histories, loan histories). Collection management is
concerned with the object throughout its life cycle, an idea shared in records
management. As such, students will need to learn techniques for the “detection and
identification of deterioration in objects made of organic and inorganic materials.”41
Students will benefit from either on-site conservation laboratory observation or in-class
guest lectures. Conservation and restoration must cover, at a minimum:
Proper storage techniques and systems
Selecting for conservation
Ethical issues (reversibility, minimal intervention)
Preservation in situ
In addition, instructors or guest lecturers may cover archaeological and architectural
preservation, and collection management issues unique to unusual materials, forms and
formats. Wrapping up the course is the theme of ethical and legal issues in museums,
which could also be taught as a separate unit. Some topics include:
Accountability and compliance
Problems with remote access
Stolen art and the ethics of acquisition
Ethics of conservation (reversibility, minimal intervention)
Intellectual Property ‘
University of Kansas, “Museum Studies at the University of Kansas,” University of Kansas,
Museology students should be required to complete a general course on digital
preservation offered to all LAM students. A preservation course should incorporate
readings, digitization project case studies, and metadata standards specific to visual
works, geospatial information, and three-dimensional objects. A useful source for current
information is the Digital Curation Curriculum project and its work to identify “what
skills are necessary for digital curation professionals working in libraries, archives,
museums, data centers, and other data-intensive organizations.”42 DigCCurr has
expanded the scope of preservation by stating that “our cultural heritage, modern
scientific knowledge, and everyday commerce and government depend upon the
preservation of reliable and authentic electronic records and digital objects.”43
The focus of a course in museum education must maintain an appropriate
theoretical-practical balance and bridge concepts in librarianship and archival science.
This course asks how “artifact-based museums [can] provide unique educational
experiences” while realizing that these cultural institutions “exist to collect, to conduct
research on, and to display pieces of art, history, and natural history that are far too
valuable to put into interactive settings.”44 Students will get an overview of educational
services and cultural activities, planning considerations, interpretation, and evaluation in
on-site and distance learning settings. An indispensable resource is the Shaping
Outcomes cooperative project from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
(IUPUI) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which has developed
an online curriculum tool to help library and museum professionals as well as students
plan and evaluate programs based on measurable outcomes.45
Most management principles are common across the LAM disciplines. A general
management course could incorporate readings covering the basic principles of non-
profits administration, museum governance, volunteer management, the museum context
in fundraising, marketing, and public relations.
Digital Curation Curriculum, “Preserving Access to Our Digital Future: Building an International Digital
Curation Curriculum (DigCCurr),” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, http://ils.unc.edu/digccurr/
Gaea Leinhardt and Kevin Crowley, “Objects of Learning, Objects of Talk: Changing Minds in
Museums,” Multiple Perspectives on Children’s Object-Centered Learning, ed. S. Paris (Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, in press), 2, http://www.museumlearning.org/leinhardtcrowley.pdf
Natasha Solomon, Bethany Fales, and Stefanie Gerber, “Shaping Outcomes,” IUPUI/IMLS,
Information Technologies in Museums*
Information technology is the focus of numerous projects spearheaded by
professional associations and easily the most prevalent topic in current museological
discourse. Only recently has the museum profession stepped out of its generally
conservative ethos to consider all the opportunities made possible by emerging
technologies. The University of Toronto is slated to submit a report on the expanding
role of technology in museums, the necessary skills to adapt to these changes, and
existing gaps in the curriculum.46 There is good reason to believe that collaboration
between the LAM academic disciplines can provide students with adequate and topical
instruction where there might otherwise be gaps in an independent model for formal
This course is intended to be a discussion-based, theory-oriented elective with the
assumption that a department of LAM studies will offer a common course in web and
database design and management for all three programs. Students taking this course
require competency in technical web design and digitization practices; as such, they will
have needed to pass a course in web design in addition to having already taken or are co-
currently taking Digital Curation. This course proposes and often returns to the question
of how and in what ways information technology can shape the future of museums. It
will examine implications for all major functions of the museums, including educational
programming, conservation and preservation, and exhibition design. Weekly readings
and case studies will facilitate in-class discussion. Students should be expected to
independently discover innovative technical projects, articles, news items, blogs,
research, working papers, and Web 2.0 applications to introduce regularly into
discussions and to present as a report to their peers at least once. The instructor might
want to ask students to compile a list of found resources to disseminate to their
classmates, since the goal of this course is to familiarize students with information
sources they can return to upon completion of the program to keep abreast with
technological changes in the museum field.
Every student in the museology program should have the opportunity to intern at a
recognized museum or related institution in the community or on campus under the
supervision and evaluation of a member of the LAM faculty and an employee at the
selected site. The Michigan State University museum studies syllabi provide a rather
comprehensive description of internship deliverables:47
To develop patterns of professional behavior and skills
To apply academic knowledge to a museum work situation
University of Toronto Faculty of Information, “Faculty of Information Takes Lead in Future of
Museums,” University of Toronto, http://www.ischool.utoronto.ca/news-events/news/faculty-of-
Michigan State University Museum Studies, “Internships,” Michigan State University,
To function as a professional within a museum environment, as well as in the
broader community of museums
To increase awareness of current and practical museum issues and trends
To gain knowledge of the organizational structure of a museum and to develop
understanding of governance and administrative operations
To acquire knowledge and skills related to specific areas of museum work
To develop the ability to identify, assess, and solve on-the-job museum problems
To assess and re-assess individual professional goals and development
The independent study in museology would consist of supervised, in-depth study
of a particular topic in museology through reading and research. Students should be
encouraged to make use of research activities, current exhibitions, and education
opportunities happening at that time in local museums or at the university. The
independent study is also an excellent opportunity for students to conduct innovative
LAM-oriented research with topics such as:
Archival practice in maritime museums
Using research libraries in museums
The design of public library exhibitions
History of the Smithsonian museum archives
The Future of Museums
The LAM-model museology curriculum is only intended to be a starting point for
further development. It is my hope that academic and professional communities continue
to discuss possibilities for convergences of libraries, archives and museums in academic
instruction not as resources or service providers but as disciplines in their own right. For
that to happen, museology scholarship and training must provide:
1. Curricula guidelines that reflect best practices in and expected outcomes of
various multidisciplinary pedagogies
2. Sufficient flexibility in formal education programs to better equip emerging
professionals with the tools to effectively navigate an exceedingly complex
3. Equal consideration for postgraduate education and professional development in
conference proceedings, published research, and mission statements of
The museum community needs to evaluate the many incarnations of degree
programs and theorize new models, but will require more precise terminology,
institutional funding, and increased access to published scholarship and working papers.
Lois Irvine articulated some of the more basic concerns in program development, asking:
“How do we deal with the huge range of subjects that we have unleashed
and still retain our focus on the fundamental knowledge and competency
requirements that are necessary for museum work? How do we encourage
the necessary depth of specialisation for scholarship and judgment that we
feel is critical to museum credibility while at the same time expanding our
horizons to make our work relevant to current and potential audiences?”48
What is needed is an international project that first isolates, identifies, and evaluates core
practical and theoretical aspects to be covered in pre-entry education, and then drafts and
freely disseminates curricula guidelines based on these stated goals and tailored to hybrid
postgraduate degree programs.
The future of museums and cultural institutions, at a time of severe cuts to
funding, will be sustained by the input of a growing and dedicated group of emerging
professionals. As Francis Henry Taylor wrote in Babel’s Tower: The Dilemma of the
Modern Museum in 1945, “each generation has been obliged to interpret this vague word
‘museum’ according to the social requirements of the day.”49 This, then, is our perennial
task as we toil in the borderlands between the vulnerable stories of our collective past and
the stories yet to be written. Neither form nor format will keep us from preserving the
former and making room for the latter. The social requirements of today demand that we
bridge the gaps between our institutions. The LAM model for graduate education is just
one interpretation, but few efforts could be more rewarding than the creation of a
scholastic enterprise that—generations later—might continue to inspire others to take on
the obligation of re-inventing that vague word and provide for the common-wealth of our
most enduring and indeed endearing institutions—libraries, archives and museums.
Lois Irvine, “Taking on the World: Museums, Contemporary Issues, New Skills,” New Directions in
Professional Museum Education and Training, ed. Saskia Brown, ICTOP Study Series 10 (Groeninghe,
Belgium: ICOM, 2002), 4-5, http://icom.museum/study_series_pdf/10_ICOM-ICTOP.pdf
Lynne Teather, “Museum Studies Borderlands: Negotiating Curriculum and Competencies” (paper
presented to ICTOP-Lisbon, October, 2008), 8,
Arizona State University. “The ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Offers a Unique Interdisciplinary Museum Anthropology Program.” Arizona State
Buffalo State University. “History and Museum Studies.” Buffalo State University.
California State University, Chico. “The Option in Museum Studies.” California State
Caple, Chris. Conservation Skills: Judgement, Method and Decision Making. New York:
Columbia University Department of Anthropology. “M.A. in Museum Anthropology.”
Digital Curation Curriculum. “Papers and presentations.” University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill. http://ils.unc.edu/digccurr/products.html.
Digital Curation Curriculum. “Preserving Access to Our Digital Future: Building an
International Digital Curation Curriculum (DigCCurr).” University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill. http://ils.unc.edu/digccurr/.
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George Washington University. http://www.gwu.edu/~mstd/Courses/master.htm.
Gurian, Elaine Heumann. “What Is the Object of This Exercise? A Meandering
Exploration of the Many Meanings of Objects in Museums.” Reinventing the
Museum: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Paradigm Shift. Edited
by Gail Anderson, Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004.
Hudson, K. “The Museum Refuses to Stand Still.” Museum International 197 (Jan.-Mar.
Humanities and Social Sciences Online. “H-Museum.” H-Net.
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Plans.” IUPUI. http://liberalarts.iupui.edu/mstd/course%20listing.html.
Institute of Museum and Library Services. “About us.” IMLS.
International Council for Museology. “About ICOFOM.” ICOFOM.
International Committee for the Training of Museums Personnel. “Curricula Guidelines
for Professional Development.” ICOM. 2008.
International Council of Museums. Basic Syllabus for Professional Museum Training.
International Council of Museums. “ICOM-L.” ICOM. http://icom.museum/distlists.html.
Irvine, Lois. “Taking on the World: Museums, Contemporary Issues, New Skills.” New
Directions in Professional Museum Education and Training. Edited by Saskia Brown,
ICTOP Study Series 10, Groeninghe, Belgium: ICOM, 2002.
Kaplan, F.S. “Moving Target.” Museum News (Jan/Feb, 1992).
Leinhardt, Gaea, and Kevin Crowley, “Objects of Learning, Objects of Talk: Changing
Minds in Museums.” Multiple Perspectives on Children’s Object-Centered Learning.
Edited by S. Paris, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, in press.
Leinhardt, Gaea, et al. “A Framework for Organizing a Cumulative Research Agenda in
Informal Learning Contexts.” Journal of Museum Education 22, no. 2-3 (1998).
Maroevic, Ivo. “Museology as a Field of Knowledge.” Cahiers d’étude. ICOFOM Study
Series 8, Groeninghe, Belgium: ICOM, 2000.
Michigan State University Museum Studies. “Internships.” Michigan State University.
Museum Computer Network. “MCN-L.” MCN.
Museum-Ed. “Discussion List.” Museum-Ed.
Museum Learning Collaborative. “Philosophy and Purpose.” MLC.
Research Libraries Group. “Organization and Service Relationships on the LAM
Solomon, Natasha, Fales, Bethany, and Stefanie Gerber. “Shaping Outcomes.”
Teather, Lynne. “Museum Studies Borderlands: Negotiating Curriculum and
Competencies.” ICTOP. Lisbon, October, 2008.
Tibbo, Helen, and W. Duff. “Toward a Digital Curation Curriculum for Museum
Studies: a North American Perspective” CIDOC annual conference. September 15-
18, 2008. http://www.cidoc2008.gr/cidoc/Documents/papers/drfile.2008-06-
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. “Proclamation of
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” UNESCO, 2001.
Université Laval Departement d’histoire. “Les études en muséology.” Université Laval.
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Future of Museums.” University of Toronto. http://www.ischool.utoronto.ca/news-
University of Toronto Faculty of Information. “Master of Museum Studies Program of
Study.” University of Toronto. http://www.ischool.utoronto.ca/programs-
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Weil, Stephen. “Training for Tomorrow’s Museums.” New Directions in Professional
Museum Education and Training. Edited by Saskia Brown, ICTOP Study Series 10,
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Yale Resources.” Yale Bulletin. September 26, 2008.