Fourteen recent graduates in the M.A in Museum Professions program, a Graduate Studies program within the College of Communication and Arts, recently completed their master's theses, each contributing a year's worth of research and exploration to the museum field. The labors of their efforts produced in-depth analyses of multiple topics including visitor accessibility, restricted gifts, display of ethnographic objects and funding in museums. Among the recent graduates, Jenny Reilly, Claudia Preza and Brianna LoSardo conducted research on socio-political issues inspired from their classes in the Museum Professions program.
Jenny Reilly, M.A.'18, an alumna of the Museum Registration track, analyzed the challenges of protecting museum professionals in areas of armed conflict. The destruction of Palmyra and the desecration of the Mosul Museum, were the catalysts for her thesis titled, "Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: Protecting Museum Professionals During Armed Conflict." Reilly explored historical accounts of museum professionals in conflict zones and provided possible solutions including the expansion of legislation and implementation of programs for professionals in need.
Reilly shared that her thesis concept shifted as her research developed from a collection's focus to a people focused approach. "Sometimes professionals, especially those like me who feel strongly about collections care, forget about the human component of the museum world which includes the museum employees," Reilly said.
"Throughout my coursework in the Museum Professions program, we often discussed the shift in the museum world from being collection focused to community focused," she said. "In my research, I found the same. In order to care for the collection, the museum community needs to assist their peers. I view my research and writing as open ended, something that I hope others could return to and expand on as more research is done and the museum community comes together," she said.
Claudia Preza, M.A. '18, an alumna of the Exhibition Development track was inspired by the variety of artistic expression following the 2016 presidential election when developing her research ideas. Her thesis, "Art Museums as Places for Dangerous Ideas: The Censorship of Controversial Art," addresses censorship in museums through a discussion of how art museums should avoid self-censoring, and instead discover a way to display controversial topics that encompass the role of the museum in the community.
Preza reflects on her experience conducting this year-long research project. "One of the challenges for me was defining what censorship meant in a museum setting," she shared. "Censoring in art museums has been going on for years but there is still no standard way to approach the subject. What museums today must seek to answer is: to censor or not to censor. There is not a significant amount of research on the topic of censorship in museums."
Similar to Reilly and Preza, Brianna LoSardo, M.A. '18, an alumna of the Registration track, was inspired by recent events in the museum world. LoSardo's thesis, "Rescuing Records: Safeguarding Vital Museum Records," examines how the rapid proliferation of electronic records in museums leaves museums unprepared to safeguard these records from natural or manmade disasters. LoSardo argues that museums should empower staff to take proactive steps to manage electronic records through creation of policies and procedures as well as a basic level of records-handling training for all staff members.
LoSardo works at the Archives at the University and sees the importance of records management first-hand, yet her research drew surprising conclusions. LoSardo collected the bulk of her data through a national survey of museums. "I thought that while many museums may not have a formalized records management program, emergency plans would be more prevalent and might be a natural place to address preserving vital records in an emergency," she shared. "I was surprised to learn that only about half of respondents said that records were addressed in their institution's emergency plan. I am especially glad that I can share this knowledge with the wider-museum world."
Since graduation, Reilly, Preza, and LoSardo have all begun their museum careers. Reilly recently completed an e-internship at with the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.. Preza is honing her skills as an independent curator and was accepted to participate in the international school Museums and Stereotypes that will be held in Turin, Italy. LoSardo continues to work at Seton Hall processing the papers of Msgr. William Noé Field as well as new acquisitions.
Students who completed their Master's Thesis during the 2017-2018 academic year include:
- Anna Baccaglini; "Multi-Sensory Museums: Balancing Objects' Preservation and Visitor Learning Experiences"
- Kathryn Baurhenn; "Museums and Native Communities: Collaboration Through Innovative Techniques"
- Emily Brostek; "Where We Are and Where We Need to Be: A Study Identifying the Progress of Accessibility Efforts for Visitors with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Museums"
- Jacquelyn Coletta; "The Rise of the Evaluation Department in U.S. Museums – Current Trend or Here to Stay?"
- Matthew Dellaguzzo; "Marching on Together: the Future of Non-Profit Museums in a For-Profit World"
- Ahmed Eslayed; "Registrarial Challenges in Egyptian Archaeological Collections in US Museums"
- Ashley Halinski; "What Goes Around Comes Around: The Ethical Implications of Accepting Restricted Gifts"
- Alexandra Henderson; "The Treatment of Relics and Reliquaries in Museum Displays"
- Sarah Kraft; "Acknowledging the Colonial Past: Display Methods of Ethnographic Objects"
- Jessica Pochesci; "A Matter of Charitable Trust: Examining the Use of the Cy Pres and Deviation Doctrines in Arts Museums"
- Aimee Tillyer; "Federal De-funding for Museums in the United States: How will Museums be Affected?"
The M.A. in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Museum Education, Museum Registration, Museum Management, or Exhibition Development. Master's Thesis is the culminating experience of the Museum Professions program. Students, under the direct mentorship of a faculty member, research and draft a comprehensive paper related to a museological topic.
The College currently offers three Master's-level programs, including Museum Professions, Strategic Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.