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UT’s newest major

by Tori Takacs

As the first week of the 2019 spring semester comes to a close, word about the addition of a Museum Studies major has slowly been spreading around campus. According to UT’s website, it is “designed to give students applied museum experience that will support their career in cultural heritage management and care, while allowing to grow into their artistic pursuits.”

Jocelyn Boigenzahn, director of the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, said that the goal of the new Museum Studies program is “not just to prepare students with the practical information of the didactic. The best part about this program is that we throw them into the reality of a working museum. Everything we do with the students is a real and practical experience in the gallery. We are turning the Scarfone/Hartley gallery into a learning lab.”

The program creates a hands-on approach for students that allows them to study a diverse selection of topics, from data management systems used in big museums to how to set up art exhibits.

“The program was officially launched in the fall of 2018,” Boigenzahn said. “We had two pilot classes for the intro to Museum Studies courses, starting in the spring of 2017. During that semester, the entire program was set up and prepared for Senate approval.”

One of the main goals of the program, according to Boigenzahn, is to open opportunities for students to get an internship in a local museum or gallery in the Tampa area, and possibly abroad, by their junior year. The program is currently designed to only be a major, but there is a chance that Museum Studies may be offered as a Master’s program as well in the future. The large number of topics discussed and studied makes the program more difficult to shrink into a minor.

Francesca Bacci, associate professor of Art and Design, emphasized the ability of the program to go hand-in-hand with other majors. A B.A. in Museum Studies requires 37 credits and has mandatory classes like any other major, but it is easy to combine this program with many other areas of study such as Fine Arts, History or English. Bacci, who prefers to do “research in action” in the form of shows, found that working and curating in galleries and museums alongside her students fit her perfectly.

“This course revolves around two main areas of interest: some topics are more appealing to future preparators, those who are tasked with mounting exhibitions, physically hanging artworks, building pedestals, putting exhibits in place,” said Dr. Bacci. “Others are for students who have more historical, administrative or research interests, who aspire to do the behind-the-scenes work in museum offices.”

This setup allows students more than one career option while choosing what to study in this major, while also working as a backup plan for others. Bacci claimed that young professional artists usually have a hard time supporting themselves at the beginning of their career, so Museum Studies works as a safety net for struggling artists, giving them something to reliably fall back on.

Junior Stephanie Powell is one of ten students currently majoring in Museum Studies. While this was not her original career choice, her interests in art history, museums, and restoration, along with help from Bacci, led her to chose Museum Studies for her major.

“I had always considered restoration because it entails a lot chemistry and science, and I spent the better part of my life learning science,” Powell said. “When I can get into the art aspect of it, which is what I’m doing right now, it’s just an incredible combination.”

Tori Takacs can be reached at victoria.takacs@spartans.ut.edu

 

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