Beginning this summer, the Department of Art History will offer a new graduate certificate in museum studies. The certificate is the first of its kind among colleges and universities in the Twin Cities and also among St. Thomas' benchmark schools across the country.
According to program director and art history professor Jayme Yahr, the program is designed to meet the needs of students looking to establish or retool their skill sets and enter the interdisciplinary field of museum studies and nonprofit work. Students will investigate the critical issues facing diverse types of museums today and will explore the practical skills necessary for successful museum careers.
In addition, the program leverages the power of the Tommie network by offering opportunities for dialogue with museum professionals. Students also will experience hands-on projects with opportunities to curate shows with the university's art collections.
Two tracks will be offered. The first is a standalone certificate. The second is a joint certificate and M.A. in art history.
Yahr, who has been researching similar programs since coming to St. Thomas in 2015, said there is a demand for this level of training, both in the Twin Cities and nationwide. "Over 90 percent of our current M.A. in art history students are looking for careers in museums or nonprofits," she said. "I heard from people in the field who work at museums in the Twin Cities who said 'I was looking for a program like this and it doesn't exist.'"
Graduates of the program will walk away with an understanding of the field of museum studies and the practical framework of museums and how they operate, which is not something that is always taught in standard art history curriculum. "I think sometimes we assume that it's common knowledge and we don't spend the time to talk about it," said Yahr, who added that grads also will gain a greater understanding of producing practical materials for the museum world, including education, marketing and social media plans.
According to Yahr, the certificate has the potential to give competitive edge to those interested in applying for jobs at museums. "When most people think of museums, they think of curators. But 95 percent of the jobs in museums are not curators. They're in areas like education, marketing, communications, development, administration, program coordination and community outreach, to name a few."
Art History Department chair Victoria Young noted it was an innovative program that will meet a practical need in a creative field. "Art history is great, but when you can make it practical it's even better. [The certificate] provides you with more of a focused skill set because of the classes we are able to offer," Young said. "We are thrilled to provide the opportunity for our graduates to build lifelong careers in this field."
Young added that an undergraduate course in museum studies will be offered in the spring 2017 semester.
For more information about the new graduate certificate in museum studies, visit the Art History Department's website.