Holiday greetings and annual update

Dear MSP colleagues, students, and friends,

As we enter the last stretch of a busy Fall term and with the holiday season in sight, I am writing to share with you some news of the past few months and exciting updates as we look ahead in the Museum Studies Program.

In September, we welcomed twelve new graduate students from an equal number of distinct disciplines, including Political Science and Biophysics (for the first time), into our ever-expanding community of museum studies students, scholars, practitioners, and enthusiasts. At our Fall reception, we rang in the 20th year of our program – an anniversary that continues to give us cause for celebration. We were delighted to count among our guests Ray Silverman, who founded the program in 2002-03 and directed it for ten years.

In the Winter term, we will mark this anniversary with a dedicated symposium on March 16-18, 2023 that will feature MSP alumni working in the academy and in museums. We are thrilled to announce that the event will be keynoted by Cara Krmpotich, Associate Professor and Director of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto. In dialogue with past and current students, Dr. Krmpotich will reflect on the future of museum studies.

As our program continues to grow, we are dedicated to ensuring its future in every way, from teaching new cohorts of students to offering relevant, thought-provoking programming and creating a space for cutting-edge scholarship and practice. All of this requires us also to steward and grow our resources. We are fortunate to have the strong support of the University in this regard – but we also rely on you to help us fulfill our mission. To this end, and as a special fundraising incentive during our anniversary year, past and present directors of MSP have committed to match your contribution. Please see below for more details as to how you can help us grow into our third decade.

In reviewing our program’s first two decades, we are grateful for the students, directors, and community partners who have built our program into the enriching community of scholars, practitioners, and students we so cherish. As in previous years, we have again benefited from the steadfast support of the School of Rackham and its Associate Dean for the Humanities, Arthur Verhoogt. We are equally grateful for the support of our Steering Committee members from across campus, including museums, academic programs, and the university library. This year, our Steering Committee added a permanent seat for a student representative for the first time in our history. Finally, our program would not live up to its potential without the generous commitments of time and expertise from museum staff on and off campus – through guided museum tours, classroom visits, and as hosts of our student-led capstone projects.

It is important to us to strengthen student engagement and participation at all levels of our program. Our new museum blog “Museum Matters@Michigan” is written by MSP graduate students and undergraduate students pursuing a Museum Studies Minor. I invite you to explore the new blog posts. While writing about their own museum research and experiences, our students have also been inspired by MSP visiting scholars and guest speakers.

Earlier this year, we had the honor of welcoming two outstanding museum scholars, directors, and activists to campus:  Lisa Yun Lee, Director of the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago, and Bénédicte Savoy, Professor of Art History and Museum Studies at the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, and Sorbonne University, Paris. While Lisa shared with us her vision for a new kind of museum devoted to public housing in the US and their residents, Bénédicte focused on the struggle of African nation-states for post-colonial repatriation of their cultural heritage from museums in the global North. We have also continued to offer webinars to connect with audiences who cannot so easily travel to Ann Arbor: this Fall, Deirdre Hennebury invited Susan Rowley, Director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and Bridget Callahan, Smithsonian Institution, to present on Museum Collections: Considering Access & Transparency through Visible Storage. In December, Taylor West (MSP21) zoomed in from England and  shared with us the astounding results of her internship-supported digitization efforts at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

While we prepare the alumni guest list for our MSP@20 symposium, we are once again amazed and invigorated by our students’ many accomplishments and critical interventions. New essays by Monica Patterson (MSP07) and Susan Dine (MSP15) analyze children’s museums and cinematic museum representation in Black Panther, respectively. Caitlin Clerkin (MSP14) began a curatorial fellowship at the Harvard Art Museums, Alicia Juillet (MSP14) is now working as curator for the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum at Citi Field, Christina DiFabio (MSP16) is currently interning at the Getty Villa and will begin a Postdoc with the Loeb Classical Foundation in 2023. Mary Pena (MSP16) and Felix Zamora Gomez (MSP16) are undertaking postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton University and at our very own UMMA.

Deirdre, Amy, and I love hearing about these achievements, your different career paths, and what keeps you coming back to MSP. In this vein, we encourage you all to keep in touch!

And if you are inclined to help us financially, to tap into the MSP@20 spirit and our special fundraising opportunity, your contribution will help to inaugurate a new, practice-oriented museum studies seminar format that pairs teaching faculty with curators, conservators, educators, and collection managers working in our on-campus museums. Your contribution, big or small, will have a direct impact on enriching student experience, and thanks to the match, you can now double that impact!

Thank you for your continued support and best wishes for a peaceful and happy holiday season.


Kerstin Barndt

Director, Museum Studies Program

Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

University of Michigan