New Museum Studies Portfolio Program Introduced at The University of Texas at Austin

The College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin will offer next fall a new graduate program, the Portfolio in Museum Studies, that will allow master’s and doctoral students enrolled in any school or college at the university to develop a concentration related to the practices and cultural significance of museums.

Portfolio programs are non-degree programs that bring together faculty and graduate students from a variety of disciplines whose interests and training are beyond traditional academic disciplines. Students obtain credentials in a cross-disciplinary manner while they are completing the requirements for their graduate degrees in other disciplines.

The number and type of museums throughout the world have grown exponentially in recent years. In 1973 the Texas Association of Museums had 79 members. In 2005 it reported 906 members. The museum studies portfolio program is an initial step in recognizing the need to study museums and their practices, such as preservation, and to develop expertise to support this transformational growth in museums, archives and cultural heritage institutions.

The College of Fine Arts, which includes the Blanton Museum of Art, has developed this portfolio after a year-long study initiated by the college’s dean, Douglas Dempster.

“The world of museums has enjoyed a booming expansion over the last 20 years,” Dempster said. “With that expansion, we’re seeing an increased demand for museum professionals and technical specialists. The disciplinary depth and diversity offered by the university combined with its extraordinary museums, special collections, faculty and museum professionals affords the university everything it needs to offer a first-rate museum studies program.”

College of Fine Arts Project Coordinator Andree Bober organized a committee from across the university to explore the possibilities of museum studies, and initial funds have been raised to operate this portfolio program.

Understanding how museums shape societies as well as understanding the practical and analytical skills necessary for museum operations are but two broad issues that can be explored with university resources. Students, in consultation with a faculty advisory committee for the portfolio in museum studies, will design a related set of courses that will enhance their graduate degree work. Students will have the option of substituting an internship for some of this coursework. The members of the faculty advisory committee teach diverse disciplines (Janice Leoshko, art and art history; Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa, archives and preservation; and Pauline Strong, anthropology), and it is assumed students who undertake the portfolio program will represent an even wider range of interests.