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New Minor Builds On Growth of Museums

Photo of display in Catich Gallery

April 2017


St. Ambrose University is giving students another unique career-oriented opportunity this fall when it launches a minor in museum studies.

"There is a boom going on in the museum industry right now, and it is a worldwide boom. The fact it is occurring at a time when the economy is not at its strongest suggests this boom will continue to strengthen and grow," said Terri Switzer, PhD, professor of art history and director of the art history program.

The minor will allow students from all academic majors to explore the varied professions within museums and discover if their interests and talents are a good fit. "They need CEOs and CFOs, fundraisers, marketers, exhibitioners, registrars, art insurers. There is a huge range of careers within the museum industry and a fit for everyone," Switzer said.

Museum studies has typically only been offered at the graduate level. "Very few schools in the Midwest offer it at the undergraduate level," she said.

St. Ambrose has designed the minor to focus on the role of museums in contemporary society and give students the skills, knowledge and foundation to fill a variety of positions within the industry, whether they choose to work at a historical society, history museum, art museum, children's museum, science museum, an auction house, library or archive.

According to a December 2016 report in The Art Newspaper, between 2007-2014, nearly $5 billion was spent on museum expansions in the U.S., and an estimated $8.9 billion was spent worldwide.

In 2013, The Economist reported the number of museums worldwide had grown from 23,000 in the ‘90s to more than 55,000 in 2013. At least 850 million people visited U.S. museums in 2012, which was more than the combined attendance of theme parks and all big league sporting events.

Switzer said industry projections predict the growth will continue into the 2020s.

Students can combine courses, such as introduction to museum studies, exhibition planning, and collection management with internships, marketing, and courses related to their specific discipline and museum interests.

SAU Art History faculty will help students find internships at museums, galleries, historical societies, and federal agencies. In the past six years, SAU students have held internships at more than 15 sites, including the Figge Art Museum, Putnam Museum, Rock Island Historical Society, John Deere Archives and the Family Museum. On campus, students have held internships with the Catich Gallery and the St. Ambrose University Archives.

Hands-on internships will provide experiential learning opportunities that directly tie to each student's career goals. That practical experience will make SAU students competitive in today's job market.

Switzer said SAU's art history program is known to be very lively and energetic, "and we will have the same spirit in museum studies. This minor is intended to serve a variety of students, from art, history, education and science majors, to international studies and women and gender studies. You can combine this minor with anything," she said.

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