The University of Maryland College Park’s (UMCP) Certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture (MSMC) was started in 1996 to promote graduate training focusing on research about and in museums and historic sites. Curators from the National Museum of American History and other Smithsonian centers as well as faculty from the University’s departments of American Studies, Anthropology, History, and Historic Preservation have participated in designing the program and are represented on the Certificate Committee.
The program centers on three questions:
- How do museums function as social and historical institutions?
- How is material culture used as evidence in museums?
- In what ways do exhibits, collections, and other museum efforts express ideas and create knowledge?
Our ultimate purpose is to explore the ways that museums and historic sites participate in those scholarly disciplines that engage material culture. Core courses offer the participation of staff from the world’s largest museum complex and enable students to combine intellectual inquiry about museums with direct access to local museums and museum professionals. The certificate prepares students to present their scholarship in a museum or historical setting. However, this is not a museum studies program which aims to train students to become museum curators or administrators. Rather, it focuses on scholarly analysis of the role of the curator in American society.
The Certificate has four required courses (3 credits each) that are meant to be taken sequentially to complete the program. These courses include “Introduction to Museum Scholarship,” “Museum Research Seminar,” “Museum Scholarship Practicum” and a fourth course chosen by the student in his/her department which focuses on material culture or other closely-related field. Currently, all graduate students at UMCP can apply to the Certificate. The certificate is not available independently of a graduate degree program from UMCP.