The Museums Concentration gives students a foundation in the history of museums and the critical issues they engage. Through a combination of academic course work, two internships and independent research, students learn about institutions that shape knowledge and understanding through collection, preservation, interpretation and display of material culture. The Museums Concentration provides a unique opportunity at the undergraduate level for students to consider how their academic studies might connect to their future lives and careers. Students are introduced to issues such as community access, cultural ownership and public accountability—areas of study that will be important whatever they decide to do after Smith.
The Museums Concentration draws on the educational resources of Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of more than 27,000 original works of art and the other special collections at Smith, the expertise of SCMA’s professional staff and on the exceptional academic programs of Smith College and the other Five Colleges that support learning in this area. The program supports the study of material culture within a broad range of scholarly disciplines and allows students to explore areas of professional practice through meaningful connections with museums locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
The concentration accepts up to 15 students annually. Students must have a minimum of three semesters remaining at Smith to be eligible to apply for participation in the Museums Concentration. Students are encouraged to apply during sophomore year. Applications will not be accepted from first-year students. Preference is given to students with a demonstrated interest in the application of their academic discipline to the world of museums.
Students are strongly encouraged to have taken the required gateway course MUX 119, Museums in Society, before they apply. if possible. Eligible applicants will already have completed two of the courses on the list of required and elective courses. Applications will be reviewed by the Advisory Committee of the Museums Concentration. Accepted students will be assigned an adviser who will oversee their progress on the concentration and will track their work.
Some students may choose to pursue the Museums Concentration in addition to a second major or a minor. This would occur when the concentration serves to logically unify and reinforce a particular program of study. Such decisions should be made in consultation with the your adviser, and must be approved by the Museums Concentration Advisory Committee.
The concentration is composed of six courses, including two required courses (noted below), electives and an independent research capstone project as part of a seminar course in the spring of your senior year. The total combined coursework will accrue no fewer than 22 credits. The two required courses are:
MUX 119 Museums in Society (not offered Fall 2021)
This 1-credit, half-semester course meets during the fall semester on Friday afternoons. It is offered S/NC only. Museums are multilayered institutions with complex histories. Their role in society reflects contemporary perspectives on the ways knowledge is produced, categorized, and communicated. This course introduces students to key topics reflecting the history of collecting institutions, their evolving public mission, and critical issues central to their work today.
MUX 300 Museums Concentration Research Capstone
This four-credit seminar is offered during the spring semester for seniors completing their culminating capstone project for the Museums Concentration. It provides a forum for students to develop the research projects that synthesize their previous coursework and practical experiences. These projects are supplemented by weekly seminar discussions during which students explore and critique the mission and work of museums and the contemporary forces that shape them. Only students participating in the Museums Concentration may register for MUX 300.
Recommended Course Electives
These are courses that have been offered over the past several years and are relevant to the Museums Concentration. Consult the course catalog for current availability. Other courses aligning with student interest and work in the Museums Concentration are eligible with adviser approval.
Museums Concentration interterm course
MUX 222 Studies in Museums
What goes on behind the scenes in a museum? Who makes the decisions about what to collect and how to display and interpret it? How do concepts of mission and public trust guide that work? Through a series of rotating topics, Studies in Museums considers the conceptual and practical issues governing the work of museums. The course will use the resources of the Smith College Museum of Art—collections, programs, and staff—to explore these issues in practice. Through this work students will be introduced to the professional disciplines found within the field of museums, including curation, education, conservation, and registration.
Interterm 2022 Painted Wood Sculpture
This course will focus on an upcoming exhibition at Smith College Museum of Art on painted wooden sculpture (13th-17th centuries). Taught by the curator of the exhibition, it will explore four of the museum’s objects to be included in the exhibition within the contexts of their history and related issues of conservation. Lectures and discussion will alternate with in-person technical examination of the sculptures, their treatment, and hands-on workshops concerning materials and methods with a professional art conservator.
- AMS 302 Material Culture of New England, 1630-1860
- AMS 411 American Culture - Conventions and Contexts(4 credits; open only to students in the Smithsonian Program)
- ANT 135 Introduction to Archaeology
- ANT 221 Archaeological Method, Theory and Practice
- ANT 249 Visual Anthropology
- ARC 135 Introduction to Archaeology
- ARH 110 Art and Its Histories
- ARH 207 Translating New Worlds
- ARH 292 Collecting the Past: Art, Artifact, and Ancient America
- ARH 400 Special Studies
- CHM 100 Chemistry of Art Objects
- CHM 118 Advanced General Chemistry
- For those on a conservation track:
- CHM 111 General Chemistry
- CHM 224 Introduction to Inorganic and Physical Chemistry
Classical Languages and Literatures
- CLS 217 Greek Art and Archaeology
- CLS 218 Hellenistic Art and Archaeology
- CLS 237 Artifacts of Daily Life in the Ancient Mediterranean
Education & Child Study
- EDC 235 Child and Adolescent Growth and Development
- EDC 238 Introduction to Learning Sciences
- EDC 305 The Teaching of Visual Art in the Classroom
- EDC 347 Individual Differences Among Learners
East Asian Languages & Culture
- EAL 237 Chinese Poetry and the Other Arts
FYS 197 On Display: Museums, Collections, and Exhibitions
- GEO 112: Archaeological Geology of Rock Art and Stone Artifacts
- IDP 116 Introduction to Design Thinking
- IDP 132 Designing Your Path
- LSS 245 Place Frames: Photography as Method in Landscape Studies
Latin American and Latino/a Studies
- LAS 291: Decolonize the Museum
PHI 233: Aesthetics
- THE 154: "Reading" Dress: Archival Studies of Clothing
Five College Courses
Relevant Five College courses can also count toward Museums Concentration credit. See the current Five College catalog to check availability and consult with Museums Concentration advisers.
Can I pursue the Museums Concentration with a double major or a minor?
In some cases students may choose to pursue the Museums Concentration in addition to a second major or a minor. This would occur when the concentration serves to logically unify and reinforce a particular program of study. For example, a student with an art history major and an education minor might elect to do the minimal additional coursework for the Museums Concentration, with focus in museum education. Such decisions should be made in consultation with the student's adviser, and must be approved by the Museums Concentration Advisory Committee.
How do I apply?
Fill out the online application form and send a PDF of your unofficial transcript to email@example.com.
Students are encouraged to apply in their sophomore year, and applications will not be accepted from first-year students. The application deadline is December 1; decisions and notification will be made by the start of the spring semester.
Do I need to be an art major to do a Museums Concentration?
No, we welcome all majors. The Museums Concentration has the flexibility to support any discipline relevant to museums or other kinds of collecting institutions, or it can be pursued independent of a student's major. Majors particularly compatible with the Museums Concentration include anthropology, American studies, art, chemistry, education and history. Students interested in exploring the museum applications for their discipline, such as a branch of the sciences, can choose electives to tailor their concentration.
If I have taken AMS 411 Exhibiting Culture: An Introduction to Museum Studies in America as part of my participation in the Smithsonian Program, can that count toward the required courses instead of MUX 119?
If my major requires a senior research seminar can that count toward the requirement for a research capstone project for the Museums Concentration?
No. The Museums Concentration research capstone must be taken in addition to any senior research seminar required for your major.
What kinds of practical experiences can count toward the Museums Concentration?
Students are responsible for arranging two relevant practical experiences. The Lazarus Center and the staff of the Smith College Museum of Art can provide information on potential museum-based work experiences. As a general rule, students will be expected to apply for Praxis funding for one of their practical experiences. Possibilities for meeting this requirement include, but are not limited to:
- A Praxis internship
- Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program
- Internships pursued in conjunction with the Smithsonian Program or study abroad
- SCMA's Student Museum Educator Program
- On-campus internships at SCMA
- Some work-study positions at SCMA, depending on the tasks and duties assigned
- The annual Carson Curatorial Summer Internship at the Toledo Museum of Art (offered only to Smith students)
Do the requirements for the Museums Concentration meet the preparatory requirements for admission to graduate school for study in such areas as art history, museum education, or art conservation?
No. While completing the Museums Concentration will help you prepare for graduate study in those areas, in each case there are more extensive requirements for admission to graduate school.
How will having completed the Museums Concentration help me after graduation?
The Museums Concentration provides a unique opportunity at the undergraduate level for students to consider how their academic studies might connect to their future lives and careers. Through focused practical experiences that build on what they are learning in the classroom, students will develop valuable professional skills. After investigating a variety of career paths, they will graduate with a clear understanding of their next options. Studying the complex history of museums also provides a fascinating window onto the wider world in which we live. Students are introduced to issues such as community access, cultural ownership, and public accountability—areas of study that will be important whatever they decide to do after leaving Smith.
When is the Presentation of the Museums Concentration?
Presentations for the Museums Concentration are usually scheduled in late October/early November. Check edigest and on the website for scheduling announcements.
Students are required to process and reflect on practical experiences in an e-Portfolio. You will be guided through this process during several required group workshops.
The minimum expectations for what should be included in your e-Portfolio by the spring of your senior year are:
- Reflections on two specific experiences (academic or practical)
- A philosophy statement
To aid in the reflection process, students are encouraged to maintain a journal, document their practical experiences with photos and videos and to keep examples of the work and materials they produce.
The resulting e-portfolio documents students' journeys through the Museums Concentration and becomes a useful resource for seeking future experiences and jobs.
Course work will be complemented by at least two practical experiences within museums. These may include internships and paid or volunteer work. The elective courses combined with these practical experiences can offer you the opportunity to explore one or more specialized disciplines within the work of museums, such as curatorial practice, museum education or art conservation.
If you chose a specific area of focus for the concentration (curatorial, education, art conservation), you are encouraged to complete at least one practical experience in that area. The Lazarus Center for Career Development and the staff of the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA) can provide information on potential museum-based work experiences, but it is your responsibility to arrange for two relevant experiences.
To count toward the Museums Concentration, an internship, volunteer or work experience must meet the requirements outlined in the next column.
As a general rule, students are encouraged to apply for Praxis funding for one of their practical experiences. Any internship that receives Praxis funding must meet separate qualifications detailed by the Lazarus Center for Career Development.
- Consist of 150 hours of work (roughly equivalent to a year-long campus commitment or a 1-month full-time internship) or meet specific SCMA program requirements. When possible, internships of longer duration are strongly encouraged.
- Focus on substantive, content-based work.
- Receive prior approval from your Concentration adviser using the Practical Experience Pre-Approval form.
If you already completed one or more Practical Experiences before entering the Museums Concentration program, you are still eligible to receive credit for these experiences. You should complete the Pre-Approval form for each experience and review it with your adviser.
The following required documentation must be submitted for each practical experience.
The Practical Experience Pre-Approval Form must be completed and signed by your concentration adviser prior to completing your practical experience.
Museums Concentration students are eligible to apply for a $2,400 grant to support a summer internship or work experience to count toward their practical experience requirement. Two grants are awarded annually on a first-come, first-served basis.
Preference will be given to students who have already used their Praxis funding, although all Museums Concentration students who still need to fulfill the practical experience requirement are welcome to apply. Graduating Museums Concentration students are not eligible. Students with paid work experiences are still eligible to apply for this funding to assist with living expenses, although preference will also be given to students with non-funded internships. Eligible experiences must meet the practical experience requirements.
Practical experiences that fulfill the requirements for the Museums Concentration are available at Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA), particularly the Student Museum Educator (SME) program which works directly and primarily with K-12 students on guided tours. SMEs also assist with various research and administrative duties in support of the museum’s education department. Ongoing yearlong training focuses on developing proficiency in gallery teaching in a supportive environment.
- Participation for at least two (2) semesters
- Full attendance at training sessions
- Work at SCMA’s annual Community Day
Other substantial paid and volunteer opportunities in departments such as curatorial, collections management, and marketing and communications at the Smith College Museum of Art may be counted toward the Practical Experience requirement, pending adviser approval. Participation in the Museum Volunteer Program (MVP) or Student Museum Advisory Committee (SMAC) does not usually meet requirements for the concentration.
Paid positions are listed on JobX, the student employment site.
In early spring of your senior year, you are required to submit a completed Concentration Checklist, signed by your adviser, indicating that you have completed all concentration requirements. Completed advising checklist forms are due in the registrar's office no later than the end of the first week of the student's final semester.
The following required documentation must be submitted to Russel Altamirano (Museum of Art, Tryon Hall) for each practical experience. These forms must be completed and signed prior to completing your practical experience.
To apply for the Museums Concentration, fill out the online application. You may apply to the concentration in your sophomore or junior year. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2021. Decisions and notifications will be made by January.
Join us for the PRESENTATION OF THE MUSEUMS CONCENTRATION (date TBD, late October or early November) to learn more about the program and application process and meet current Museums Concentration students.
All accepted students are expected to attend a welcome retreat at the beginning of spring semester as well as all subsequent Museums Concentration workshops.
Smith College Museum of Art
20 Elm Street
Northampton, MA 01063
Jessica Nicoll, Director of Museums Concentration
Charlene Shang Miller, Museums Concentration Co-Manager