Museum studies course provides valuable interactive experience

Museum studies is a hands-on course that gives students experience and knowledge to continue in the art history field, as well as an appreciation of museum layouts.

Visiting art history assistant professor Alla Myzelev describes her 300-level museum studies course in one word: dynamic. Through the elements of studying theory and gaining hands-on experience, students can learn in a variety of ways in ARTH 378. 

By combining seminar and laboratory instructing styles, Myzelev guides the class through discussions on academic articles, which provide the foundation for students to complete their own independent projects. At the end of the semester, everyone in Myzelev’s class will create personal miniature exhibitions that will be displayed at all of Geneseo’s on-campus galleries and studios. 

Belonging to both the department of art history and the museum studies minor, Myzelev’s course introduces students to museology—the study of owning, operating and organizing museums—from the theoretical and practical lenses. 

For anyone interested in taking this course, Myzelev would recommend an interest and background in not only art history, but also humanities or history as a broader discipline. 

“People potentially interested in this career path can take the class to explore what they could do and then do an internship,” Myzelev said. 

By taking museum studies, students can expect to learn an appreciation for the structure and the design that constitutes a museum layout, as well as the fundamental rationale behind that plan. While the course’s theoretical component addresses the function of museums and galleries in society, the practical component allows students to experience trying to execute the work of assembling displays for themselves. 

Combining their art history backgrounds with immersive and interactive learning opportunities, students participate in independent and team-based projects. 

“After taking this class, the students will never be innocent visitors to a museum again,” she said. 

In addition to their miniature exhibitions, class members will spend this semester working on an Emmeline Bear exhibit for the Milne Gallery and writing exhibition reviews based on what they have studied. 

Explaining the importance of practical experience and hands-on projects, Myzelev emphasized that after the taking this class, students can mention such projects on their resume, making them more competitive for internships and graduate school applications. 

To accomplish their larger group projects before the deadlines, students must work after hours and outside of class, especially to prepare the Emmeline exhibit. 

Although the class only meets twice a week, Myzelev maximizes their time together by avoiding strict schedules. Instead, she opts for “free flowing and flexible classes” with several components: discussion, analysis, experience and observations of the relevant works of others. 

To allow for the incorporation of different and dynamic learning experiences, Myzelev resists simply lecturing students—she prefers inviting guest speakers to discuss local galleries and taking field trips to nearby destinations like the George Eastman House in Rochester and The Livingston Museum and Archive History. 

Having taught museum studies in previous semesters, Myzelev recalls positive student feedback and experiences, including individuals who have gone on to pursue museum studies degrees at New York University and Georgetown University. 

From the perspectives of past and current students, Myzelev excels in encouraging internship opportunities and the pursuit of various careers within the vast fields of art history and museum studies. 

“Already I can see how this class is going to be incredibly helpful for my understanding of museums and their missions and roles in society,” art history major junior Victoria Elliott said.

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“That’s something that I’m very cognizant of as a man teaching this class,” he said. “I would consider myself a feminist and fall within the category of people who think that it’s important for men to be aware of this, too … If history needs to be rewritten … it requires rewriting the whole set of issues concerning both men and women.”

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