University at Buffalo
Department of


Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

M.A. in Critical Museum Studies

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Critical Museum Studies is a pre-professional interdisciplinary MA program under the aegis of three programmatic sponsors and core departments/programs: ArtAnthropology, and Arts Management. Students are required to take courses in each of the three core programs thereby insuring that an interdisciplinary perspective is built into the program.

Centrally, Critical Museum Studies will offer a theoretically informed and politically engaged perspective on the current museum field. The museum world is in the midst of new pressures and is struggling with shifting paradigms, attempting to negotiate perhaps the most seismic changes since its 19th century origins. Today, as museums negotiate a digital shift in a newly globalized museum world, a host of new pressures have arisen.  The demands of social media and edutainment as well as digital heritage and repatriation are among only the most visible of these rapidly shifting paradigms.  As private capital increasingly pours into the new genre of the private or single benefactor museums, traditional city museums are correspondingly impoverished. A series of recent “culture wars” turned on museum exhibitions, making the museum not only the newly politicized arbiter of official culture, but placing it in the cross hairs of as yet unresolved cultural skirmishes. Adding to these woes, newly vocal populations are beginning to question their invisibility within traditional museums, even as new “identity” oriented museums continue to develop. A newly emerged for-profit museum model, with vastly different standards of educational import, and even historical accuracy, is drawing visitors who view the museum exclusively in terms of entertainment. Even some non-profit museums have begun to operate as entertainment complexes. Increasingly communities view museums as an integral part of the local economy, a reliable generator of tourist dollars, increasing the pressure on museums to be more widely popular and less the preserve of the specialist. Yet even as new museums proliferate, these pressures go largely unaddressed. The MA in Critical Museums Studies, a new museum studies degree for the 21st Century, will instead place these issues front and center.

The MA will consist of a minimum of 36 credit hours and will be entirely self-funded. No TA support is available for this program. All students will be required to take 3 core courses in the three core departments/programs, write a thesis and participate in a practicum/ internship program in one of the core departments/programs.

Program Plan

Core Courses -9 Credit Hours

  • VS 501 Intro to Visual Studies (3) OR VS 521 Critical Theory (3)
  • APY 514 Museum Management (3)
  • AAP 519 Critical Questions Concerning Museums (3)

Electives, 9 Credit Hours

  • Choose from the three participating departments


Independent Study, 6 Credit Hours

First & Second Semesters

Choose one, three credit hour independent study from any of the three departments:

  • AAP 599 Independent Study
  • APY 602/607 Individual Reading cultural anthropology/physical anthropology
  • VS 595 Independent Study: Advanced Reading


Internship, 6 Credit Hours

  • Anthropology concentration: APY 538 Field School or APY 557 Internship/Practicum
  • Arts Management concentration: AAP 511 Fieldwork in Arts Management
  • VS concentration: VS 501 Politics of Museums in NY or AHI 598 Museum Studies Internship

Master’s Thesis, 6 Credit Hours

(in accord with department of enrollment)

  • AAP 513 Thesis Guidance
  • APY 600 MA Project/Thesis Guidance
  • VS 598 Thesis Guidance

For more information:

Apply to M.A. Program
> UB GrAdMIT on-line application (Select Degree Program: “Art History MA” under drop-down menu)

UB Graduate School
> Resource for prospective and current graduate students, faculty and staff

202 Center for the Arts, North Campus
Buffalo, New York 14260-6010
(716) 645-6878
(716) 645-6970 fax
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