MA in Critical Museum Studies

Secure your position at the forefront of leadership and change in the rapidly shifting museum world. Our forward-thinking interdisciplinary degree integrates core coursework and internships in your choice of AnthropologyArtArts ManagementClassics and Media Study

A combination of an advanced degree and professional skills are critical for success in today’s competitive job market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Candidates seeking archivist, curator, museum technician, or conservator jobs should expect very strong competition. Graduates with highly specialized training, a master’s degree, and internship or volunteer experience should have the best job prospects.”

Infographic that says, 10 Skills Employers Want: 1. Research 2. Data Collection and Analytics 3. Professional Conduct 4. Communication 5. Global Perspective 6. Critical Thinking 7. Organizational 8. Leadership 9. Customer Service 10. Digital Competency/Literacy .

Be Career Ready

  • Acquire the skills to manage the digital shift in a newly globalized museum world
  • Understand the emerging role of social media and edutainment and its impact on museum programming and audiences
  • Prepare for museums’ integral role in local economies, as reliable generators of tourist dollars, and the resulting pressure on museums to be more widely popular
  • Develop the tools to frame and implement a greater cultural and artistic vision

Employers often cite the skills profile of applicants as the most important factor in their recruitment and job offer decisions.

Here is how we help you develop 10 critical skills:

1. Research

Work with classmates on real-world projects in our community and throughout the world. Take advantage of opportunities for specialized and interdisciplinary research with nationally and internationally renowned faculty members and scholars.

In addition, Department of Anthropology, Art, Arts Management, Classics and Media Study faculty members are leaders in these noted UB research organizations:

Faculty members and graduate students collaborate with leading museums and organization throughout the U.S. and across the globe including:

Graduate students can apply for up $1,500 in support for research-related projects through the Mark Diamond Research Fund

2. Data Collection and Analytics

Determine the origin, history, and importance of many of the objects you will work with throughout your career. In close coordination with a faculty advisor, tackle an approved research project and write a research paper or thesis on a topic that fascinates you. Recent student research projects include:

  • Sustainability of American Museums in the 21th Century: The Many Uses of Scientific Advancement and New Media Technology
  • Opening the Museum: An Examination of How Community Created Exhibitions Can Strengthen Museum Learning Among Families of Lower Socioeconomic Status

3. Professional Conduct

Gain insight into the demands and expectations of employers through credit-bearing and, in some cases, paid internships. Students displaying knowledge, professionalism and a solid work ethic are oftentimes offered full-time positions.

The Arts Services Initiative of WNY posts internship opportunities for arts and cultural organizations throughout the year.

Western New York is home to over 100 art galleries and museums, and at least another 100 cultural organizations. If you can’t find an organization with which to intern, volunteer or participate, you’re just not trying! Below are just a few of the local organizations that provide opportunities for UB student interns and graduates:

Major Museums and Galleries

  • Albright Knox Art Gallery
  • Anderson Gallery
  • Buffalo History Museum
  • Buffalo Museum of Science
  • Burchfield Penney Arts Center
  • Castellani Art Museum
  • CEPA/Big Orbit Gallery
  • Griffis Sculpture Park
  • Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
  • UB Anderson Gallery
  • UB Art Gallery


4. Communication

Participate in department and program talks, colloquia, conferences, faculty candidate job-talks and interviews, meetings and other events.

Each semester, engage with a diverse group of professionals, both in origin and scope of work, at seminars at workshops. Through this interaction, think outside your cultural and professional norms in experiencing, developing, producing and managing the arts.

In addition to building camaraderie with other graduate students and faculty you will:

  • Gain first-hand exposure to leading-edge scholarship
  • Keep abreast of important themes and trends in the field
  • Experience a wide variety of presentation styles
  • Practice engaging professional discussion

Some of the 2018 guests included:

  • Mark Wasiuta, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP and Co-Director of the Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture program
  • David Getsy, Associate Dean School of the Art Institute, Chicago
  • John Zion, Managing Director of MKI Artists, which represents many of the world’s leading classical musicians for more than sixty years. He directs the worldwide careers of a select group of artists who have received the industry’s top honors including the Grammy Award, Avery Fisher Career Grant, and Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year. Before coming to MKI, John performed regularly as a violinist with orchestras throughout New England and toured Vietnam with his string quartet.
  • Ron Athey, one of the leading performance artists in the world
  • Amelia Jones, Robert A. Day Professor and Vice Dean of Research at the Roski School of Art and Design at University of Southern California, and a founding figure in Feminist Art History
  • Umberto Crenca is a co-Founder (and recently retired Artistic Director) of AS220 a nonprofit center for the arts in Providence, Rhode Island. AS220 was established in 1985 to provide a local, unjuried, and uncensored home for the arts.

5. Global Perspective

Understand how art functions within cultures and political systems outside of their norm and across the globe. Work with artists, venues, institutions, and management companies that employ various different systems of subventions, legislations and policies.

Students have the opportunity to participate in international field schools and study abroad experiences to further their understanding of museum studies in different contexts. In turn, national and international scholars frequently come to campus to present guest lectures and partake in conferences to expose students to a multitude of world views.

In 2018, students participating in the Arts Management Program’s summer abroad program met with current Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada and visited some of the country’s leading art institutions. Previous destinations include:

6. Critical Thinking

Produce an original contribution to the field, incorporating theory, methods, coursework and research into your Master’s Thesis. Showcase your ability to design, manage and report on topics typically required for professional employment, highlighting your competence across several areas within Critical Museum Studies.

Examples of recent Master's Thesis includes:

  • The Museum as a Method of Political Control: The Expansion of Palace Museums in East Asia
  • By the People, For the People: An Examination of How Community-Created Exhibitions Can Strengthen Museum Learning

7. Organizational

Effective archivists, curators, museum technicians, and conservators are able to store and easily retrieve records and documents. They must also develop logical systems of storage for the public use.

For example, museum registrars are responsible for developing and maintaining records management systems, with individual files for each object in the collection. A Critical Museum Studies graduate student interned at the Anderson Gallery and was so successful, he was hired as the full-time Registrar thereafter.

8. Leadership

Rise to the challenge by gaining experience and leadership skills in some of the hundreds of University at Buffalo extracurricular and governance organizations, civic groups and volunteer activities.

Join like-minded peers in the UB Anthropology Graduate Student Association and other student associations and clubs and participate in poster competitions, travel to conferences, network and have some fun with colleagues.

Prove your abilities and make powerful industry connections through participation in regional and national professional organizations including

9. Customer Service

Become the face and extend the brand of your organization with courteous, friendly and effective customer service skills in order to influence and assist museum guests, donors and the media.

In addition to internship and placements opportunities described in “Professional Conduct” above, become a docent, volunteer or attend events at one or many of our community’s other thriving arts or cultural organizations:

  • Artfarms Buffalo
  • Arts Services Initiative
  • Buffalo Arts Studio
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Buffalo Infringement Festival
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Buffalo Public Schools, Arts Education Department
  • Buffalo State College, Arts Education Department 
  • Buffalo United Artists
  • Buffalo Zoo
  • Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo
  • El Buen Amigo & Latin American Cultural Association
  • Emerging Leaders in the Arts
  • Elmwood Festival of the Arts
  • El Museo
  • The Foundry Buffalo NY
  • Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance
  • Hispanic Heritage Council
  • Just Buffalo Literacy Center
  • Locust Street Art
  • Frank E. Merriweather Library
  • Music is Art
  • Nash House
  • Peace of the City Ministries
  • Road Less Travelled Productions
  • Sportsmen’s Americana Music Foundation
  • Squeaky Wheel/Buffalo Media Resources
  • Starlight Studio and Art Gallery
  • Subversive Theatre
  • Theatre for Change, Inc.
  • T. Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
  • Torn Space Theatre
  • Verve Dance Studios
  • Western New York Blues Society
  • WUFO AM Radio
  • Ujima Company, Inc.
  • Ventbuffalo
  • Young Audiences of WNY

10. Digital Competency/Literacy

Develop and use complex databases related to archival and other materials stored and accessed by museum audiences. Master the latest social media to ensure your organization’s communication is relevant and delivered effectively.

Recent projects include:

  • Cravens Virtual Museums Project: A case study of digital heritage, 3D technologies, and museum education
  • Walking the Tightrope: On the Balance of Digital Technology in Museum Exhibits and the UB Anderson Gallery Interactive

Participate in Digital Dialogues, a series of on-campus workshops higlighting ongoing digital scholarship across campus by faculty, staff, and students, bridging the disciplines to spark conversations on creating and using digital tools.


How much can you earn?

Bar graph, Salary: $85,000, high; $47,360 median; $26,000 low.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for archivists, curators and museum workers was $47,360 in May 2017. The highest 10% earned more than $85,000.

What career is in your future?

* Archivist
* Art Educator
* Curator
* Development Director
* Executive Director
* Museum Technician
* Registrar
* Tourism Specialist
* Collection Specialist
* Community Engagement Officer
* Cultural Heritage Manager

Advantages of a Full-Time, Two-Year Program

The University at Buffalo is committed to providing a comprehensive, immersive graduate school experience with our interdisciplinary, two-year program. The second year of the program is centered on advanced applied learning requirements including an internship and Master’s thesis.

  • Learn how to take advantage of rapid changes in the museum world including the advent of single owner collections, identity-based museums and other challenges to the traditional museum model
  • Understand the defining issues facing museums now, and 10 years into the future
  • Expand your professional network by getting to know classmates with similar interests and goals
  • Connect with faculty members and professional staff members who are invested in your success, trained to listen, and experts at providing career guidance both in- and outside of the classroom

Learn more about Admissions requirements, process and deadlines.

An infographic that says, Two times you equals success.