Introduction to Museum Studies

Dr. Deborah Barkun

Museums shape and challenge how we see objects and ourselves in relation to community, culture, and the global environment. They are inextricably linked with the visual, social, political, and economic.  They embody a human impulse to preserve, display, or interpret an astonishing array of materials.  Museums come in many forms and across disciplines.  They engage various ways of knowing, experiencing, interacting, and communicating.  Museums are sites where diverse interests, skill-sets, and professional paths converge and interface with the public.


Philadelphia is home to a thriving museum and culture industry that works to educate, enrich, challenge, and drive the region’s economy. The city’s vibrant art, science, history, and literary museums will serve as our laboratory, as we study museum history, museum professions, and exhibition practices through site visits, readings, writing, and discussion.  Students can expect to visit diverse museums, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Wagner Free Institute of Science, the Rosenbach Museum, the Chemical Heritage Society, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Mütter Museum, the African-American Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and the Rodin Museum, among others.  Students will supplement our weekly museum visits with independent museum and gallery excursions.  In Spring 2017, the Philadelphia Experience will provide students enrolled in MS100 with American Alliance of Museums memberships, which include complimentary or subsidized admission to hundreds of museums across the country.


MS-100 fulfills the core Arts requirement and, as a pre-requisite for MS-200, serves as a foundational course for the College’s Museum Studies minor.