University of Toronto

This post was updated on March 11, 2017, to incorporate additional responses.

This is the review for the University of Toronto’s Master of Museum Studies. If you don’t know already:

  • Allows students to choose to complete a thesis or an exhibition project
  • The college offers a Job Shadowing Program which sounds pretty cool
  • Application is due by January 31st to be considered for entrance awards (which sounds like the same thing as merit scholarships)
  • There are three campuses; the iSchool is located on the downtown Toronto campus.

university-of-toronto-map
The University of Toronto is a public university located in Toronto, Ontario.

Thirteen individuals responded to the survey; ten of them graduated within the last five years, one graduated 6-10 years ago, and two graduated 11-15 years ago.

They listed the advantages of the program as:

  • Staff open to comments/feedback about program
  • Toronto has many cultural resources and improves one’s ability to make connections, attend conferences, and lectures
  • Offers a balance of museum theory and the opportunity to gain practical experience. I.e. they offered classes in curatorial theory that were academically based as well as audience insight classes whereby students developed and ran a visitor insight project for a local museum. The museum had a lot of local partnerships because of its location in a large cultural centre that is Toronto.
  • The program had excellent professors who are interested, engaged in the field, excellent guides for academic and museum careers.
  • Collaborative program allows one to connect the museum life to other areas with special study opportunities to dive further into areas of interest with faculty support
  • Covers a broad range of roles in a museum covered theory and history of collecting and exhibition especially
  • Capstone Exhibition Project allowed for real-time, hands-on experience with budgeting, planning, pitching, research, execution, reflection
  • Price for international students
  • 3-month professional work placement internship program
  • Annual trip to visit institutions in other cities (Ottawa, Montreal, Washington, Niagara, etc.)

The disadvantages respondents listed were:

  • Lumped in with Library Science program which had more opportunities for career networking and professional development opportunities set up by the school compared to Museum Studies students.
  • Cost, especially as an international student
  • Majority of courses focused on visitor services or museum education
  • Did not address or focus on very many aspects of museum management, especially marketing, fundraising, strategic planning
  • Large classes (up to 60 students per course)
  • Academics weren’t especially rigorous and not all courses were well taught
  • More focus on theory than practical experience, though hands-on experience is offered
  • How they advertised it didn’t match up with what the program actually was
  • Lack of postgraduate support

Based on these aspects the overall rating of this program as it was when the respondents attended is 6.62/10.00.

The overall rating of the program is it is now is 6.75/10.00

This change is due to the increased number of accepted students, being absorbed into the Faculty of Information Science, and updates to the courses and building.

Ten of the thirteen respondents do not live near their graduate school.

Five of the respondents work in a history museum, five work outside of the museum field, two work in an art museum, and one is currently a student.

Five of the respondents’ work includes collections management, exhibitions, curatorial, and/or administration duties, three respondents work in education,  two of the respondents’ work includes archival/library duties, and one’s work includes registration and/or visitor services/membership duties.

Some current job titles are:

  • Assistant Cataloger
  • Program Director
  • Arts & Culture Coordinator
  • Chief of External Affairs

Some dream jobs are:

  • Director
  • Curator
  • Collections Manager.

My Summary:

I did something different with this program. The Faculty of Information offers an Ask an Alum program that prospective or current students can sign up for and ask alumni about their career path and experience during and after completing their degree. I know I said nothing stood out as really unique about the program at the University of Toronto but this Ask an Alum program is awesome and I wish something similar was offered through other programs. No cold-emailing! As a prospective student and researcher, it was pretty great to have at least an electronic introduction. All this to say, this summary is based on not only my impression of the website and responses but also the impression left by the dialogue with the alumni.

Of course, school, no matter what level you’re at, can be more or less fulfilling based on how much effort a student makes. This seems especially true for the Museum Studies program at the University of Toronto. The program requires a summer internship but if a student wants more practical experience they may have to push for it themselves. The one disadvantage as being geared toward visitor services and education may mean this program is the perfect fit for someone interested in those concentrations. Plus, these graduates found jobs far from the University of Toronto. This may mean that their alumni

The one disadvantage listed that the program is geared toward visitor services and education may mean this program is the perfect fit for someone interested in those concentrations. Plus, these graduates found jobs far from the University of Toronto. This probably means that their alumni are spread out and well connected. I would recommend checking this program out for yourself if you’re considering it and speaking to a few alum.

What does worry me a little bit is the increase in accepted students. There are many factors that have led the museum job market to where it is now (saturated with living wage jobs feeling like Holy Grails among part-time or underpaid positions) and I doubt there is a magical remedy to the issues in the field. That said, I don’t think increasing a number of museum studies degrees earned per year is going to help. I would love to get the administration’s perspective on this particular disadvantage.

In the meantime, if you would like to add your input, check out the survey, contact me or comment below! If you would like more information here is the program’s main website.

 

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