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Museum Studies Program Exhibits Flexibility and Growth

Museum Studies Program Exhibits Flexibility and Growth

Posted: February 28, 2013

“This internship is an amazing experience,” reported Laura Anzalone, a graduate student who is interning at the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia in Lisbon, Portugal. She is helping to create a database of objects from Bautus, an archaeological site. Anzalone is also assisting at the Geology Museum in Lisbon, and she couldn’t be happier.

“It’s so exciting to be part of the life of a museum,” she said. “Doctoral students are conducting research, conservationists are reconstructing old vessels, and curators are creating new exhibits for the public.” She applied to SUNY Buffalo State’s master’s program in museum studies after graduating from the University at Buffalo, where she pursued her passion for Mediterranean archaeology by studying both anthropology and the classics.

The museum studies program offers three tracks: collections management and curatorial practice; museum operations; and visitor experience and education. “We’re flexible enough to accommodate students’ different backgrounds and goals,” said Cynthia Conides, associate professor of history and social studies education and museum studies program coordinator. “We get a lot of inquiries from all over the world.” Alumni include students from Taiwan and Wales.

When Conides joined Buffalo State’s faculty, the college offered courses in museum studies, but no program existed. “Western New York has so many museums and art galleries, as well as many small collections and historical societies,” said Conides. “It seemed like a great opportunity for such a program, especially with the art conservation program and the Burchfield Penney Art Center.”

Conides was instrumental in starting an undergraduate minor and a graduate certificate program in museum studies at Buffalo State. “We had two or three graduate students ten years ago,” recalled Conides. “Since our master’s degree in museum studies launched in 2011, our total graduate enrollment has grown to about 30 students.”

The program is meeting a demand not just from students but from institutions. Students have interned at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and the Science Museum. Many alumni have taken positions with these institutions; others are playing pivotal roles at small but growing museums, such as the Steel Plant Museum of Western New York, and at major institutions including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Students’ backgrounds include archaeology, chemistry, fine arts, and history. Master’s theses have researched topics such as analyses of museum visitors, Leonardo da Vinci’s two “Virgin of the Rocks” paintings, and the issue of returning artifacts to their country of origin.

In Lisbon, Anzalone is enjoying the opportunity to combine her interest in archaeology and museums while furthering her graduate studies. She said, “Someday I hope to manage collections and create memorable exhibits that may change someone's life, the way they did mine.”

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