Practicum Project

The Practicum Project (AMST 857/ANTH 857/HIST 811) is an independent research and creative project designed to allow students to work with professionals in the field on a project managing collections, interpreting historic sites/tours, exhibition design and implementation, evaluating visitor experience, and other hands-on programs. The practicum consists of three components:  a research paper, the practicum product, and a reflection essay. Students devise and carry out a research project using collections at a host organization like the Smithsonian or another approved museum or cultural center.

Identifying a host institution or site, coordinating with host cultural heritage professionals and administrators, and writing up a practicum proposal will require considerable preparation so students are advised to allocate enough of time to accomplish the initial groundwork. In addition, security and personnel procedures in many institutions require additional paperwork and time to complete before the project can begin. MSMC program director(s), MSMC committee members, and program advisors may help in identifying potential research sites and contacting museum professionals in the region. However, students are largely responsible for initiating and facilitating the whole process.

Over the semester, students work independently under joint supervision of a museum professional from their host organization and a practicum advisor from the MSMC Committee who best matches the student’s degree needs. Students must seek a practicum advisor whose scholarship and expertise will best guide them in their practicum project. The faculty advisor must agree to serve in this capacity before enrolling in the practicum course.

In consultation with the faculty advisor, formal practicum proposal of no more than ten, single-space pages must be submitted to and approved by MSMC program director(s) before the semester in which the student registers for the course. At, this time the practicum proposal form, which can be found on our website, should also be submitted as part of your proposal. The proposal may require revision upon review by the practicum advisor and program director(s). The formal proposal identifies tangible goals and defines what the student expects from the practicum.

Note: Be mindful of your museums’ or historic sites’ security and temporary personnel procedures which may require additional paperwork and time to complete before the project can begin.

Research Paper

Students should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Design project with a specific museum or historic site and with the supervision of a UMCP faculty member and a museum professional at the host organization;
  • Center project on research and interpretation of some kind of material culture;
  • Consist of the student’s own work (students should not simply perform research tasks to support a museum professional’s project);
  • Produce an independent product;
  • Meet professional standards of writing, design, research, timeliness, clarity, and organization.

Practicum Product

Previous students have planned (and sometimes executed):

  • exhibitions;
  • written exhibition catalogs;
  • produced a grant application to support a proposed exhibition;
  • designed a walking tour for a historic site or district or a special topics docent tour for an exhibition;
  • developed an annotated bibliography of born-digital museums;
  • proposed an alternative interpretive plan for an historic site or;
  • simply provided research needed to display or interpret a museum collection.

Practicum Examples

Previous students have shared their practicum products to given current and prospective students greater insight into the final product.


View Alumni practicum project titles.

Reflection Essay

In the reflection essay, students evaluate their research and development process for the project and assess how the practicum experience has contributed to their understanding of museum scholarship and material culture. The essay is also a reflection of all four MSMC courses completed for the Certificate and how each of those courses has informed the student’s final practicum experience and professional growth.

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