Updated on March 3, 2018 to incorporate additional responses.
This is the review of the History program at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. For starters, here are some facts about the program and the university:
- The degree offered at UNCG is an M.A. in History with a concentration in Museum Studies and is a 36 credit degree.
- Graduates of the program automatically become members of the Museum Studies/Historic Preservation Graduate Student Group (MSHP) which organizes community and recreational activities for the group.
- The GRE is required to apply and there is a required capstone project to graduate.
So far, there have been 19 responses from graduates from this program. 15 respondents graduated 0-5 years ago, three respondents graduate 6-10 years ago, and one respondent graduated 11-15 years ago.
The advantages reported for the program are:
- Generous financial aid packages and assistantships
- Director of the program, Dr. Benjamin Filene, has extensive museum experience with a strong professional network
- Professors are supportive and experienced in the field
- The program structures assignments around real-life museum projects, including a capstone project instead of a written thesis
- Freedom to pursue individual projects and tailor the program to fit the student’s desired focus
- Strong connection to local museums
- Large range of class topics addressing current issues and best practices in the field
- Small cohort
- Low cost of the program
- Positive reputation
- Required internship
- Opportunities for networking and professional development with funding for attending conferences, travel, and research
- High rate of job placement
The disadvantages reported for the program are:
- All projects centered around 20th-century history. Professors seemed to disregard the importance of earlier stories
- Little curriculum related to material culture, the interpretation of objects and collections management
- Very little practical instruction/practice in topics related to museum administration (human resource management, working with governing boards etc)
- While we studied best practices for museum exhibits for three semesters, none of our exhibit work ended up reflecting these best practices and there are no workroom facilities set up for such projects
- Due to the small cohort, students’ experience is heavily shaped by their peers including collaborative projects
- Professors are very closed minded about people that want to work in public serving roles or interested in niche positions
- The program is not as much of a practical hands-on program as presented
- A small number of faculty with inexperienced professors
- Too strong of community/collaborative focused instruction and not particularly involved with the museum on campus
- Is very separate from related programs also offered at UNCG like the Non-profit Management certificate and MLIS
- School administration is unorganized leading to confusion on admittance, loan information, and overall general support of the program
The overall rating of this program as it was is 8.16/10.00
The overall rating of this program as it is now is 8.62/10.00*
This change is based on adding a new faculty member, the option to complete a project instead of a thesis, being the first year to experience a new project and more focus on students obtaining professional experience.
*only 13 of the 19 respondents responded to this question
13 of the graduates do not live near UNCG.
The alumni are fairly spread out in different types of museums. Seven graduates work at history museums, three work within libraries, two work in historical societies, one works at a specialty museums, one works at an art museum, one at a science museum, one works at a living history museum, one works at a historic house, one works at a culture and history center, and one works at a non-museum-related institution.
Ten alumni’s responsibilities at work include collections management and/or education duties, seven include exhibitions, five include registration and/or curatorial duties, three include administration, visitor services/membership, and/or archival/library duties and one includes evaluation.
Some current job titles are:
- Curator of Education and Interpretation
- Accessories Craftsperson
- Manager of Interpretation and Collections
- Special Collections Archivist and Curator
- Art History Professor
Some dream jobs are:
- Working in education at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Historical Interpreter
- Education Manager
After browsing the website, the program is presented as hands-on and highlights the large projects completed every year. So it could be different adjuncts have different connections and therefore the projects offered change year to year. Or maybe students would appreciate more, smaller, projects throughout their time at UNCG.
Many alumni listed hands-on projects and the variety of courses offered as advantages of this program. However, respondents also noted that there is a lack of curriculum focused on administration, finance, and collections management. Collections management is one of the types of responsibilities over half of the respondents have in their current job. So though students that attend this program may not have many classes pertaining to this subject, alumni have gained the experience and knowledge to do the job.
As a potential student, it worries me that the professors are so black-and-white about certain aspects of museums. I understand professors not covering certain parts of history when that time period is not their focus.However, generally, museum professionals do some aspect of everything in a museum at some point in their career. I feel programs that bill themselves as generalist should support the exploration into a variety of departments and opportunities available and if this program isn’t doing that, it’s not cool.
One aspect of the courses offered was a little weird. The program states it’s an MA in History but there are quite a few classes that are called public history or cover historic preservation. After reading the disadvantages over and looking over the course descriptions, it seems to me that the program might be spreading itself a little thin or having an identity crisis. I haven’t been able to find anything on a Public History concentration at UNCG but Dr.Filene’s title is “Director of Public History.” Was the Museum Studies concentration once a Public History concentration? From my understanding, museum studies and public history programs can be similar but are not the same. This difference could be the underlying problem these graduates had with the program.
I plan on speaking with one of the professors who reached out now that the sample pool for this program is a little larger to find out more concerning their hands-on projects, history of the program, and curriculum offerings. Is there anything more I should be sure to ask? Am I misrepresenting the Museum Studies concentration at UNCG? Let me know your input by commenting below, contacting me, or taking the survey. The website link is in the first paragraph.