School of Art + Art History

Museum Studies

Critical Museum Studies

Critical Museum Studies is the intentional use of inquiry, cultural responsiveness, and the values of Equity, Inclusion, Access, and (Social) Justice (EIAJ) to explore political, social, cultural, and expansive thought within museums. Critical Museum Studies actively engages with core ideologies of co-creation, participatory engagement, racial literacy, cultural competence, active listening, and social justice as necessary frameworks to shape museum professionals invested in transforming the field of museums for 21st century visitors and professionals.

We situate our learning within a frame of inquiry that explores, examines, and interrogates our field by asking these critical questions:

  1. What is a museum?
  2. ​What is required to create the museum of the 21st century?
  3. Whose narratives have been excluded from museums, and how can we end institutional erasure?
  4. What is the role and function of race and racial equity in museums?
  5. Is it possible to decolonize museums?
  6. What is museum activism?
  7. What are the benefits of EIAJ to museums and their visitors?
  8. What is the value of cultural heritage and material culture in museums?
  9. How can we create the healing-centered/trauma-informed museum?
  10. What is intersectional museum praxis?

Our Interdisciplinary lenses/interests include and are not limited to:

  • Radical Librarianship
  • Women, Gender, and Queer Theory and Studies
  • Archival Theory and Studies
  • Public History
  • Anthropology
  • Historic Preservation
  • Critical Race Theory and Critical Studies
  • Indigeneous Studies
  • Natural History and Sciences
  • Disability Studies
  • Decolonization Theory and Studies
  • Art History
  • Education
  • Organizational Change Theory
  • Architecture and Design
  • Computer and Networking Theory
  • Cultural Heritage Informatics

Transformation, Change, and Commitment to Anti-Racism

Our rootedness in Critical Museum Studies reflects the changing nature and definition of museums and the field at large. With shifting expectations from museum visitors on what constitutes a “good visit” and calls for museums to create more equitable and inclusive workforces, our field is transforming rapidly. Preparing emerging museum professionals that will respond to and innovate change in museums requires new ways of being and a new approach to museum studies.

As such, we are committed to:

  • Anti-racist teaching and pedagogy
  • Decolonizing our curriculum
  • Co-creating a dynamic coalition of co-conspirators, collaborators, and agents of change

We are committed to the College of the Arts Meta-Strategy, as it encapsulates departmental credo that “museums can change the world.” Part of the process for creating change in museums is cultivating the next generation of museum professionals to operate as change agents themselves. 

Statement on EIAJ and Curricula

Overview and Philosophy
Museum Studies is a vital discipline at the intersection of cultural heritage, informatics, digital technologies, material culture, history, and more. It is an in-depth examination of the role of museums in society. Our discipline’s assumptions have been based on the notion that cultural heritage institutions exist to collect and preserve the material culture of nations for public display. While these conventions are predicated on the notion that access to these resources is a human right, it is our belief that it is necessary to interrogate these practices to maintain critical standards of ethics, empathy, and professionalization. We actively explore and seek deeper meaning and healing around issues of reparations, repatriation, cultural and national agency. We prioritize the need to cultivate challenging dialogue, shape innovation in the field, and create ideological change for the healthy growth and expansion of our field.

We understand the complex histories of colonialism and imperialism and their compounded impact on museums as institutions. As such, we understand that it is imperative to decolonize our curricula. 21st century museum scholarship and professionals must actively engage in anti-racist pedagogies and expand beyond museology as it is currently practiced.

As a program adhering to Critical Museum Studies, and in responsive engagement with the College of the Arts Meta-Strategy, we uplift the teaching philosophies and pedagogies of critical scholar and educator bell hooks. We believe that museums can change the world. In doing so, we shape change in our field by developing and expanding upon a curriculum that achieves, as bell hooks instructs, a pedagogy of transgression. Our philosophy is that we “teach to transgress.” In relation to museology, we transgress racial, social, political, gender, and class barriers to practice and embody the six pillars of the COTA Meta-Strategy and model an ethical response to a rapidly changing world and museum landscape.

Curricula Statement
The Museum Studies Program at UF is committed to an engaged, responsive practice. We embrace intellectual rigor and center principles of Equity, Inclusion, Access, and (Social) Justice in our curricula and learning. As such, our ongoing approach to curricula prioritizes expansive intersectionality, exemplifying the diversity of identities present in the world. In addition, we embrace diverse ideologies of thought and ask that our students respect the fluidity of ideas and exchange that occurs in and outside of the classroom. We hold deep regard and respect for the positionality and lived experiences of others. As agents of change, we practice and encourage on-going personal assessment of bias and create compassionate learning and space-making for educational and intellectual growth.

Our curricula, approach to learning, community development and service, and professionalism are dedicated to the following:

  • A decolonized curricula
  • Anti-racist pedagogies
  • Intersectional learning and praxis
  • Global perspectives
  • Social Justice
  • Critical, expansive dialogue
  • Empathy
  • Active listening

Land acknowledgement
We respectfully acknowledge that Gainesville, Florida, is within the ancestral homeland and territories of the Timucua, Seminole, Miccosukee, and other traditional and indigenous communities. We also recognize that many of these communities continue to maintain sincere relationships with the landscape and surrounding biodiversity that makes this place so special to all of us.

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