Georgia Museum of Art

The Georgia Museum of Art was recently awarded a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts. (Courtesy Michael Lachowski)

The University of Georgia announced a new interdisciplinary Museum Studies Certificate program aimed at preparing students for careers in museums and museum-related fields.

The program “provides a broad overview of the history of museums as well as knowledge of museum theory, methodology and practice consistent with contemporary national and international standards” according to UGA’s Bulletin website.

The Museum Studies Certificate requires a minimum of 16 semester credit hours which includes three required courses: a three-hour Introduction to Museum Studies course, a three-hour Museum Internship and a one-hour Museum Studies Capstone.

The remaining nine credit hours can be chosen from among 23 pre-approved elective courses listed on the Bulletin website. Some courses are open only to majors in the department.

“Museum Studies is a growing field and has incredible opportunities and applications for students in a variety of academic disciplines — history, art history, art education, biology, anthropology, just to name a few,” said Callan Steinmann, associate curator of education at the Georgia Museum of Art in an email.

This variety of academic backgrounds has led a variety of UGA graduates to work at museums at some point in their careers, said James Reap, graduate coordinator of the Masters of Historic Preservation Program.

Since the announcement of the Museum Studies Certificate program on Aug. 2, many students have shown their eagerness to participate, according to the program’s director Akela Reason.

“The students have responded very favorably to this, and many students have been asking me about it, because they’ve known that it’s been in the works for a long time,” Reason said. “I’ve had a lot of inquiries already, and we haven’t even started the semester yet, so that’s very positive.”

Fourth year history student Caitlyn McSwigan is one student that is interested in the Museum Studies Certificate.

“[The program] is a unique way for history majors to get involved with something a little bit outside of the classroom,” McSwigan said.

McSwigan, who also has a certificate in historic preservation, said that the two programs overlap “really well,” as she’s able to use the same electives for both certificates. She also said she looks forward to the internship requirement.

“I like that an internship is a part of [the program] because I would really like to get some experience seeing what goes on in a museum,” McSwigan said.

Steinmann, Reason and Reap, who worked closely on the program together for the past year, all emphasized the future career opportunities in museums and museum-related fields that the program seeks to offer.

“[The certificate] will give them a leg up, in that they’ll have familiarity with the types of positions that are available in museums and will also give them some experience baked into the program,” Reason said. “When they go to apply for a position, they can hopefully prepare a cover letter that will give them advantages that will get them interviews.”

Steinmann also said due to UGA’s and Athens’ museums, such as the Georgia Museum of Art and the Georgia Museum of Natural History, students will have nearby access to internships and field experience.

“These institutions provide students the opportunity to work with objects, solve problems and apply concepts and ideas learned in the classroom,” Steinmann said. “Museums are such rich cultural resources, and this certificate will allow students to gain a deeper understanding of the role of museums in society and the day-to-day logistics of managing collections, developing exhibits and working with visitors.”

While the program was approved to begin this fall, there will be an application period before the required courses are offered, Reason said.

“However, several courses approved for the certificate are being offered this fall and will count toward the program,” Reason said in an email. “The required introduction to museum studies course will be offered in the spring.”

Reason also said a proposal for a graduate certificate in museum studies is pending.

“We hope [the graduate certificate] will be approved for spring as well, allowing those students to take the course,” Reason said.

The Museum Studies Certificate program is available to all undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students who are in academic good standing (cumulative GPA is a 2.0 or above). Students must also submit an application to the program, which may be acquired from Akela Reason at areason@uga.edu or from UGA’s history department website in the coming days.