Letter from the Director, December 2015

Greetings and Happy Holidays from the University of Michigan Museum Studies Program!  The approaching end of the calendar year provides a good opportunity to look back on the past year and forward to the coming one, and bring you up to date on our recent news and activities.

Since we admitted our first cohort in 2003, MSP has striven to create a unique interdisciplinary community of graduate students, faculty, and campus and regional museum professionals who share an interest in museums: as sites of study and as sites of practice. Each year we admit approximately a dozen Masters or Doctoral Students into the Graduate Certificate Program. To date more than 135 students from nine colleges and more than 30 academic departments have pursued the certificate. They come from disciplines as diverse as astronomy, anthropology, biology, classical archaeology, education, information sciences, law, art history, art and design, urban planning, and public policy, among others.  The MSP15 cohort is an exciting group of 12 students who exemplify this breadth, and as always, our proseminar classes and site visits involve lively and thoughtful discussions among diverse students who would likely never otherwise meet.  We have also been joined this year by Fulbright-Nehru Visiting Scholar Shraddha Bhatawadekar, who has come from India to enhance her knowledge of museums and heritage education. The diversity of the program and of the community we create sometimes challenges and always reshapes students’ understandings of their own disciplines and careers. Even in a University as committed to interdisciplinarity as the University of Michigan, the transformative experiences provided by MSP are truly special.

Our MSP alumni continue to rack up impressive successes.  Caroline Braden (MSP13, Education) focused her practicum at the U-M Kelsey Museum on increasing museum accessibility for differently abled visitors, and I am proud to report that the Henry Ford Museum has recently created the new position of Guest Accessibility Assistant just for her. Caroline is also gaining regional and national recognition for her contributions to this growing subject of museum work.   Shannon Schmoll (MSP11, Astronomy) is the new Director of the MSU Observatory; MSP 10 graduate Kate Larson (IPCAA) has recently accepted a position as a Curatorial Assistant at the Corning Museum of Glass, and anthropologist Andrew Gurstelle (MSP09) was appointed Director of the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest College. We regularly post information on our alumni at http://www.ummsp.rackham.umich.edu/content/kudos.  Please visit to learn more about our alumni and let us know if you have news we can share.

In addition to our graduate program, MSP continues to host an ambitious array of public programming that serves graduate and undergraduate students and faculty, regional museum professionals, and the public.  This semester, we hosted the lecture series Global Heritage at Risk, featuring four distinguished speakers addressed about contemporary threats to heritage in Syria, Greece, India and the United States.  Indeed as I write this, we await the arrival of Katherine Malone-France, Vice President for Historic Sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, our final series speaker.  MSP took a leadership role in planning and hosting the annual meeting of the Michigan Museums Association on our campus in October—the best attended gathering of the Association in more than 50 years!  We are now working on finalizing our events for next semester: these will include a half-day workshop on the contemporary museum scene in Detroit and public events by this year’s visiting scholar and leading museum adviser and visionary Randi Korn. Throughout the academic year, our Brown Bag Lecture series provides a context for our graduate students to present and critically examine their practicum experiences and for visiting museum scholars and professionals to present on their scholarship.  Last spring’s presentations by Detroit artist Tyree Guyton, New York Times critic Holland Cotter, and Lonnie Bunch, the Founding Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, were exciting and inspiring, attracting large audiences and media attention to our events.  And we continue to work with our 55 local and regional museum partners on Capstone Projects, site visits, and other ongoing collaborations; we are excited to have added several new organizations, including the Motown Museum and U-M’s Detroit Center, to our partner list this year.

MSP greatly benefits from generous support to our graduate students from the Rackham Graduate School and from the Museum Studies Endowment.  Earnings from the endowment assist our graduate students in a variety of ways, allowing us to supplement internship costs, address emergency needs, and support faculty-student collaborative exhibition and research projects.  Last year, we used the endowment to bring the MSP14 cohort to Chicago for a multi-day site visit. While there, we visited and met with leaders and staff of the Field Museum of Natural History, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chinese American Museum of Chicago, and Art Institute of Chicago, where we were particularly pleased to be hosted by MSP05 graduate Assistant Curator Katie Raff.  This spring, we are planning a similar trip to Grand Rapids to explore the diverse array of museums and cultural institutions in that rapidly changing city.

I am sad to report that restructuring and the loss of some our University of Michigan funding over the last few years has created serious financial challenges for our program—particularly for our visiting scholar and lectures and other public programs.  We face the very real possibility of needing to cancel the former and dramatically scale back the latter beginning next year.  To help us to continue our commitment to the exciting programming that brings national and international museum leaders and scholars to the University of Michigan, I ask you to consider donating to the MSP Director’s Strategic Fund. Your gift will go directly to supporting MSP activities that enable us to maintain our commitment to bringing together museum theory with museum practice and our University community with the larger museum community of Michigan, Ohio, and the world.

To donate to MSP, please go online to http://ummsp.rackham.umich.edu/about/support-msp/.   If you can consider a multi-year pledge to MSP, that would help us be able to plan our activities more effectively.

Finally, I encourage you to keep in touch.  Over the last few months, MSP has revamped our web site and expanded our presence on Facebook  and Twitter.  Pay us a visit; Brad, Amy and I love to hear from you!

Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you soon at one of our MSP events!

Warm regards,

Carla M. Sinopoli

Director, Museum Studies Program