On Museum Studies

I feel like I’ve been working on this blog for ages.  Initially I put a tweet out (in July! Jesus!) asking about museum studies courses, for my own interest, as I was, at the time contemplating future career moves.

The responses I got were varied to say the least. Some people had undertaken a museum studies course as they felt it was the next logical step in their career. Others had taken it as they felt they had to, yet others had done the course and felt they didn’t learn anything new by the end of it.

Some people took alternative routes in the job sector, such as skills for the future courses, where they learnt quite a lot, but it was more “broad strokes” as opposed to getting into the nitty gritty detail. Others were volunteering at the same time as doing their MS course, so naturally the course complimented their work.

The purpose of my tweet was to find out what others thought of museum studies courses and who benefited from them, IF they benefited from them.

For myself, I have been working in the sector for nearly 8 years, starting initially as a volunteer, before progressing to my current role as Marketing Officer. I didn’t have the grades when I finished my undergraduate, so whilst I knew i wanted to work in museums, that door was firmly closed to me. I applied to do some volunteering work after graduating and was fortunate enough to land a position at my current work.

I have been there since 2008, and I have gained invaluable experience whilst working in a small museum, working on large scale projects yet being responsible for delivery on individual content, such as marketing and social media. I feel that i couldn’t have gained this on the ground experience, had i not been volunteering.

Whilst I have benefitted greatly from my work and the experiences and opportunities that have been presented to me, there has always been that niggling feeling in the back of my head, which makes me think, “have I missed something by not doing a museum studies course?”

Asking my peers about their experiences in getting into the sector was refreshing and it was cathartic, knowing that I as an individual, had made the right decision in not actively pursuing a museum studies qualification.

Ultimately the museum studies course is not for everyone, one size does not fit all. However, there are a now greater number of museum studies courses now than there were ten years ago. As a sector we talk about embracing alternative paths into museums, yet job after job looks for museum studies as a qualification, that is either required or desired. There’s not really any point in talking about change unless we actually start making it.

The jobs in museums now are massively varied as well. Curator. Marketing. Front of House. Learning. Events. Public Engagement. Registrar. Archivist.  Every job has a different level of skills required to fill the role, yet the unifying component holding all the jobs together are the fact that these jobs are in museums. But so much more is demanded of museums. No longer can you go to a museum and just “look at things”, museums have to engage socially, become voices for communities, become hubs for communities. What a museum was and what a museum is now, is probably a topic for another blog, for another day.

How I feel about museum studies, and my knowledge of it are, of course, completely different to someone who has done a museum studies course.

Keen to hear what others think!

Featured image: Canadian Museum of History – Wikicommons 


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