Course Syllabus

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MUSE E-100 Fall 2016

An Introduction to Museum Studies—Course Syllabus 

Harvard University Extension School

Description: Optional Distance Learning


“Whatever worthiness a museum may ultimately have derives from what it does, not from what it is.” – Stephen E. Weil~ “Beyond Management: Making Museums Matter”


All museums share responsibility for preserving and interpreting our cultural and natural heritage for the benefit of the public and society. However, museums are more than the collections they house and the exhibits and programs they present. Each museum is a complex network of individuals whose common goal is to create knowledge and to share information and experiences with others.

This course provides a broad introduction to the museum world. Through readings, written assignments, and lectures, students will gain an understanding of the museum and the challenges and responsibilities that museums and their staff members encounter. Classroom discussion plays a big role in this class.

After discussing what a museum is, the various types of museums and their roles in the community, we will introduce current and emerging issues in museums in a number of areas including governance, management of collections, fundraising, and museum jobs and responsibilities.


Katherine Burton Jones

Director/Research Advisor
ALM in Museum Studies
Harvard Extension School


51 Brattle Street, 5th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138

Office hours: By appointment 

Laura Roberts

1715 Cambridge St
Cambridge MA 02138

Office hours: By appointment 


Course Format:

Each class session is streamed live with live chat but it is also recorded for viewing at another time during the same week.  While we hope that you can attend the live session we understand that many of you are in different time zones.





  • Gale Anderson, Reinventing the Museum,The Evolving Conversation on the Paradigm Shift,2ndedition, (AltaMira Press, 2013) 432 pages, ISBN 978-0759119659


  • Stephen E. Weil, Making Museums Matter(Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003) 273 pages, ISBN 1599340007
  • Mary (and Edward P.) Alexander, Museums in Motion: an Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums,2nd edition (AltaMira Press 2007) 366 pages ISBN 075910509X
  • Timothy Ambrose and Crispin Paine, Museum Basics, 3rdedition (Routledge 2013) 496 pages, ISBN 978-0415619349

All books will be on Reserve in Grossman Library.


Course Schedule (topics or dates subject to change based on speaker availability:

August 29, 2016          Introduction to the course, to Museum Studies, and to Museums in general

September 5, 2016      Labor Day Holiday – No Class Session

September 12, 2016    Collections and Collections Management

September 19, 2016    Exhibitions and Interpretation - guest, Doug Simpson, senior exhibit designer, Cambridge Seven Associates

September 26, 2016    Visitor Engagement and Marketing - guest, Caroline Angel Burke, Vice President, Education, Visitor Experience and Collections, Edward M. Kennedy Institute

October 3, 2016        Cultural Heritage, Cultural Property, and Repatriation - guest, Joseph Greene, deputy director and curator, Harvard Semitic Museum

October 10, 2016        Columbus Day Holiday – No Class Session

October 17, 2016        Ethics

October 24, 2016        Education - guest, Peggy Burchenal, director of education, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

October 31, 2016        Mission and Planning

November 7, 2016      Inclusion - guest, Marita Rivero, executive director, Museum of African American History

November 14, 2016    Relevance - guests, Marieke Van Damme, executive director, Cambridge Historical Society and Billy Spitzer, vice president, Planning, Program and Exhibits, New England Aquarium

November 21, 2016    Leadership - guest, Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums

November 28, 2016    Financial Management - guest, Lawrence Motz

December 5, 2016       Membership and Development

December 12, 2016     Boards

December 19, 2016     TBD


Class Assignments:  These will consist of three written papers (including the mid-term and final) and up to three blog post.  Discussion in class and online counts for a significant percentage of the grade (30%).

All papers should be typed, double spaced, with 1” margins and type of readable size (11 or 12 point) and style. Requests for an extension on assignment three must be made by email, in advance.




The most important thing is that everything counts - class participation, reactions and responses to readings, and written work. This grading policy reflects a teaching philosophy that everyone - faculty and students - share responsibility for creating a shared learning experience. Everything you do to contribute to that experience is valued by the instructor and the rest of the class. Every way that you do not contribute - by being unprepared, failing to contribute to class discussion, or not coming at all - diminishes the experience for the rest of us.


Class participation grades will be based on at the quality rather than the quantity of your contribution. A good contribution might be an insightful question or an observation relating that week’s conversation to something covered earlier. It can, of course, also be a thoughtful analysis of what you have read. Good comments build on class discussion, evidencing that you have been listening to your classmates. A less helpful contribution restates what has already been said in class or in readings. Poor attendance will be reflected in your class participation grade.

Papers should clear, well-written, and well-edited. They should be carefully organized with the arguments clearly framed. They should have an introduction, body and conclusion: tell the reader what he or she will find, expand on the premise or thesis, and then summarize at the end. Don’t just launch into your paper and don’t leave the reader hanging. Integrate readings and other course materials, as well as other research when required, to support and illustrate your arguments.


The assignments are deliberately short. Do not mistake that for quickly accomplished. Your research will be successful when you can write twice as much. Your thinking and processing will be done when you’ve edited down to the assigned length. Please do not include information that does not clearly advance your argument or thesis. Papers should be clear, crisp and business-like but still be prose, without excessive use of bullet points or explicit outlining. They are not power point presentations! Papers should reflect a well-argued point of view that shows an intelligent assessment of evidence - not a recitation of facts, however complete.


Grades will be based on the following formula:

            Class participation                 30%

            Assignment 1                         15%

            Midterm                                 20%

            Final paper                             20%

            Blog                                       15%



Harvard Extension School expects you to understand and maintain high standards of academic integrity and to take advantage of resources to support academic integrity. Breaches of academic integrity are subject to review and disciplinary action by the Administrative Board. Examples include the following:


Plagiarism is the theft of someone else’s ideas and work. It is the incorporation of facts, ideas, or specific language that are not common knowledge, are taken from another source, and are not properly cited.

Whether you copy verbatim or simply rephrase the ideas of another without properly acknowledging the source, the theft is the same. A computer program written as part of your academic work is, like a paper, expected to be your original work and subject to the same standards of representation. In the preparation of work submitted to meet course, program, or school requirements—whether a draft or a final version of a paper, project, take-home exam, computer program, placement exams, application essay, oral presentation, or other work—you must take great care to distinguish your own ideas and language from information derived from sources. Sources include published and unpublished primary and secondary materials, the Internet, and information and opinions of other people.

You are expected to follow the standards of proper citation and to avoid plagiarism. Please consult the Harvard Guide to Using Sources, prepared by the Harvard College Writing Program, for a helpful introduction to all matters related to source use: identifying and evaluating secondary sources, incorporating them into your work, documenting them correctly, and avoiding plagiarism. We also recommend that you complete our online tutorials “Using Sources, Five Scenarios (Links to an external site.)” and “Using Sources, Five Examples (Links to an external site.)” before you submit any written work this summer. These tutorials take 15 minutes each to complete, and they will help you learn what you don’t know about using sources responsibly.

In cases of suspected plagiarism, student papers may be submitted to a private contracted service that reviews content for originality. Results from this review may be used to inform the Dean of Students Office in its inquiry. Papers submitted to this service are retained by that company and become part of their database of materials used in future searches. No personal identifying information is submitted or retained by the service.

Syllabus is subject to change.



Course Summary:

Date Details Due