Forty-five years ago, Secretariat won the Triple Crown. Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in a legendary tennis match. John Dean testified on the Watergate scandal before the U.S. Senate. And, in June, the American Association of Museums—as it was then known—met in Milwaukee for its annual conference. The museum field in the United States was growing up, becoming less the province of a few powerful nationally known institutions, expanding its understanding of itself. Museum accreditation had begun a few years earlier and standing committees of the Association were beginning to be proposed. It was at that Milwaukee meeting that a group of like-minded museum professionals suggested the creation of a Museum Studies Curriculum Committee centered around ideas, interests, and issues in museum training. This committee went on to become the Committee on Museum Professional Training or CoMPT.
But what did museum professional training mean in 1973? It meant a combination of academic and technical training, in undergraduate or graduate courses or on the job. There were only a handful of museum studies graduate programs in the United States, scattered coast to coast, training students to enter a rapidly expanding and professionalizing field.
Fast forward to 2018, and AAM lists 184 museum studies and museology programs on its website. These programs vary enormously: students can earn a master’s degree or a certificate in museum studies, museum education, museum anthropology, public history, or arts management among other related fields. Students can combine museum studies coursework with courses in business administration or non-profit management to gain a dual degree. Students can enroll in on-site programs where they will be immersed in a learning community for a few intense semesters, or they can enroll in online programs where they will work with classmates and faculty from around the world.
Since its founding in 1973 as the Museum Studies Curriculum Committee, the Committee on Museum Professional Training has seen a significant change in the fields of Professional Training and Museum Studies. Forces in both the university world and the museum world have reshaped Museum Studies programs themselves and have also reshaped what the profession needs from them. Many of AAM’s Professional Networks offer their own Professional Development (PD) training sessions and webinars. PD is happening at the network level, which makes sense. People don’t look to CoMPT for Professional Training anymore: if they want to know about webinars and PD for education, they look to EDCOM; for evaluation, to CARE; for public relations and Marketing, PRAM, and so forth. What we do represent is a community; a network of students, practitioners, and educators interested in Museum Studies and the connections between theory and practice.Skip over related stories to continue reading article
CoMPT leadership has spent a lot of time over the past couple of years thinking about both who and what we are and who and what we want to be to best serve you, our membership, as well as the Alliance and the field. We are uniquely positioned to represent a specific cross-section of our field: scholars and practitioners who teach in museum studies programs of all types; graduates of museum studies programs as they find their place in the profession; current students and interns as they navigate the water of theory and praxis; Alliance members who are interested in the disciplines of museology and museum studies; and institutions who are hiring and working with the next generation of museum professionals, those with a vested interest in nurturing the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century museum. As a better-defined group with a clearer constituency, we can start to move toward serving the field and one another in more targeted ways and in ways that we can do well.
To this end, we surveyed our membership—over 1,000 strong—in late 2018. We asked what they were seeking from our professional network, where we were succeeding and where we were facing challenges, how might we refocus how we see ourselves and how others see us in order to be better positioned to address the challenges of the next 45 years. What we learned was that our membership is eager to engage with colleagues across the field, and eager to find ways to meet challenges—from increasing diversity, equity, access, and inclusion to comparing course reading lists. As a result of that exchange, our leadership team has put together a set of goals and objectives to help us identify and work towards specific accomplishments. With a new mission and renewed sense of purpose we are ready to introduce AAM to the Museum Studies Network! A community of praxis.
Join us at AAM’s 2019 Annual Meeting in New Orleans as we re-launch CoMPT as MSN, with opportunities for conversation and a re-engagement of our membership through a series of events: a Creative Coalitions reception on Sunday, May 19; our network lunch meeting on Monday, May 20; and a panel session on Relevant Museology in Solutions Central on Tuesday May 21 at 11:30 directly followed by our annual Museum Studies Programs Fair in the Expo Hall. Learn more about what we’re up to on our webpage—where you can find our new mission statement and strategic plan—and our Facebook page. Join in, learn how to become involved, make suggestions, ask questions, and contribute! We look forward to working with you as we launch the Museum Studies Network, formerly CoMPT, toward the next 45 years.