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New Summer Institute for Museum Careers

Ideally, for those who visit the world’s museums, the challenges of effectively curating exhibitions, reflecting culture, managing a flow of visitors and the logistics of maintaining collections all remain behind the scenes. The business of running a museum, though it can be fraught with difficult decisions and judgment calls—and usually financial struggles—is preferably shielded from the notice of patrons.

But in every museum, behind the works of art, the educational displays and interactive installations works a crew of coordinators and curators, educators, managers, preparators, accountants and marketers to bring the space to life.

Beginning this summer, Smith College will begin a six-week program, the Summer Institute for Art Museum Studies (SIAMS), that will introduce to participants aspects of operating a museum. Program participants will also plan and mount a full-scale exhibition at the Smith College Museum of Art.

The institute is directed by Suzannah Fabing, former director and chief curator of the Smith College Museum of Art (1992–2005). The SIAMS grew from a popular Interterm seminar on museum studies taught by Fabing for 10 years when she directed the museum.

“The Interterm seminar gave me a chance to find the most effective ways of introducing students to the museum field,” she says. “It was frustrating, however, because three weeks just isn’t long enough to cover the subject. By making the program twice as long, I think that problem will be solved.”

Though the SIAMS focuses on art museums, it will examine areas relevant to other types of museums as well, says Fabing, and she encourages students from other fields, such as history or anthropology, to enroll.

The Summer Institute for Art Museum Studies is a rare opportunity for those interested in museum careers, says Fabing. “I know of no other summer program of this kind aimed at undergraduates,” she says. “In a compact span of time, it covers much of the material typically offered in a two-year graduate program in museum studies. For those who are interested, there will be lots of down-to-earth advice about specific jobs in museums, how to get started on a museum career, and specialized advanced training programs for curators, conservators, and museum educators.”

The SIAMS is intended for undergraduates entering their junior and senior years, and recent graduates with some background in art history and interest in museum operation. Registration for the program, which will run June 19 to July 28, requires an application and other materials to be submitted by March 15. Click here for registration information.

2/8/06
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