MSMC March Newsletter


The UMD Museum Scholarship and Material Culture Newsletter

Welcome to the fourth edition of MuseNews, the official newsletter of the Museum Scholarship and Material Culture Graduate Certificate Program and the University of Maryland! We hope this newsletter finds you healthy and safe.

If you would like to contribute to the next newsletter, please contact

Program News

If you are interested in applying to complete the MSMC Graduate Certificate, please note that the application deadline has been extended. Please use this form to apply by June 1, 2020. Please let Kenna ( know if you have any trouble using the form and let Mary ( know if you have any questions about the program.

Mary's Museum Musings from the MSMC Director

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) is a favorite artist of mine.  He’s probably best known for his portraits of the rich and famous, here and abroad. The National Portrait Gallery (when it reopens) has a wonderful show of his charcoals.  These are works that were not sketches for larger paintings, but charcoal portraits.  This exhibit offers a lesson in museum practice.
There are about 50 drawings in 7 galleries on the Portrait Gallery’s ground floor.  In the first gallery I was stopped in my tracks by a portrait of a man with the most striking eyebrows (a favorite facial element of mine).  This man, and it’s interesting that I cannot tell you who he was, is presented with one eyebrow that looks as though it’s a single dark “slash” across the paper.  It’s a gesture that instantly captured me.  See picture of Kenneth Grahame included here.
Didier Maleuvre suggests “[T]he museum does give free time—freedom to loiter and tarry, to indulge the long double-take, the retracing of steps, the dreamy pause, the regress and ingress of reverie, the wending progress that is engagement.  It is a tempo of consciousness disarming to modern audience conditioned to fear open-ended silence as a forerunner to boredom.”* I walked away and returned again and again, perhaps to make sure it was still there?
From the eyebrow, I continued my meander through the galleries.  In addition to striking faces, the labels are terrific, identifying the person staring out at you.  They provide historical context and explain in some cases just who it is you are observing.  You will find Winston Churchill, W. B. Yeats, and lesser known’s such Dwight Davis, founder of the tennis competition that became the international Davis Cup.
Museum fatigue was a phenomenon often discussed in the 1970s when I joined the museum field.  It suggested that museum visits create in visitors a “tiredness” that museums must acknowledge.  I have always assumed this fatigue emerged not simply from your aching feet, but within your mental acuity, too.  Today, it’s more often subsumed within issues of visitor engagement.  Well, despite its appeal, this exhibit created just such fatigue in me; at one point all I looked for was a bench to sit upon.  As Washingtonians, we are lucky as we can return to the exhibition again to perhaps find more “eyebrows” or other elements to delight us.
Visit it and see what captures your imagination.  You may find me in the galleries again.
*“A Plea for Silence:  Putting Art Back into the Art Museum,” Hugh H. Genoways, editor, Museum Philosophy for the 21st Century, Altamira Press, Lanham, New York, Toronto, Oxford, 2006, p. 167.

Meet a Current Student

Elaina Snyder is a current graduate assistant to the National Park Service. She is a HiLS student studying Early Modern Irish History and Archives and Special Collections. Her research focuses on manuscript care, Early Modern memory, trauma, and record-keeping during the 1641 Irish Uprising. Before coming to UMD, Elaina graduated from Villanova with a degree in Honors History and minors in Irish Studies and Business. She will be graduating from UMD in the Spring of 2021.

Missing Museums?

Museums have been finding some exciting ways to connect to their audiences while we are all social distancing. This month, we thought we would feature a series of articles on how to stay connected with museums during this difficult time.

Spring Field Trip

Unfortunately, our Spring field trip is postponed (like everything else). We will let you know when we are able to arrange another date. 


Art and Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon
Wednesday, March 25 (TODAY),
Please join us for one of our great community events of the year, this time virtually!
m-ARTH MADNESS at the UMD Collaboratory
For the next two weeks follow (and vote on) head-to-head competitions between stunning works of art contending from eight different regions to see which work of art takes the crown! Check out the Art History Instagram page @terparthistory to follow and participate. Your votes drive the competition!
Program Assistant, National Park Service
Deadline: April 7
Advancement Assistant, National Portrait Gallery
Deadline: April 10
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