More than 12 graduates from the M.A. in Museum Professions program, a Graduate Studies program within the College of Communication and the Arts, recently completed their master’s theses on topics such as: museum education programming, audience research, preservation conservation, and more. Among recent graduates were Taryn Nie ’17 and Alexis Young ’17 who conducted yearlong academic research projects on societal issues within the museum professions field.
Nie, an alumna of the Museum Registration track, focused her thesis on the societal topic of gender discrimination and pay inequity in the museum industry. “Far Too Female: Museums as the New Pink-Collar Profession- an Introductory Analysis of Pay Inequity within American Art Museums” analyzed how the museum workforce is dominated by females, which has led to salaries that do not represent a living wage. As Nie stated in the abstract of her thesis, “women did not choose to enter a low-paying field, the field is low-paying because it is disproportionately female.” Nie challenged that the museum field should confront these wage gaps by making changes and incorporating the topic of salary into the American Alliance of Museums’ Code of Ethics.
“Beyond the moral and ethical portion of my thesis comes an economic opportunity for museums,” said Nie. “Pay equity leads to better workforce performance, which leads to quality programs and exhibitions, and ultimately brings the field closer to their holy grail of a larger, engaged and diversified audience.”
Nie reflected on her master’s thesis experience. “My thesis was a labor of personal and professional love. It acted as a continued reminder of how much I value being a member of the museum community and reinforced my devotion to the field. My thesis mentor, Dr. Petra Chu, has my deepest appreciation, and I thank her for her patient guidance throughout the process.”
Nie noted that pursuing a career in the museum industry came naturally to her, saying that the profession “chose her.” Originally from Alaska, she learned about the University’s M.A. in Museum Professions program through a registrar she worked with at her first museum internship during her undergraduate studies. When it came time for her to further her education, she said that the decision to select Seton Hall came with no hesitations.
“The Museum Professions program has provided me with a new depth of knowledge,” said Nie. “My recent position at the Princeton University Art Museum is a testament to the program. Its proximity to institutions in NYC and Philadelphia increased the opportunities professors are able to capitalize on to enhance the academic experience, such as site visits, speakers, and conferences. These connections and events have offered me opportunities to network and gain hands-on experience in the industry.”
Young, an alumna of the Museum Registration track, analyzed the impact of global warming and natural disasters on museums and the storage methods for museum collections. “Collections Storage and Disaster Preparedness: Past, Present, and Secured Future” was inspired by her family’s business dedicated to permanent storage systems.
“As a trained registrar, the protection of objects is a paramount concern,” said Young. “One of the highest risks to a museum collection is water, such as a major weather event, or climatic humidity. I explored the historical context of how museums have maintained their collections, and how those methods can be utilized in the future.”
Young recalled how her research came together due to the relationships she formed with her professors and the ample advice and guidance she received from her thesis mentor, Dr. Charlotte Nichols. She shared that Dr. Nichols was diligent in her support and provided invaluable research expertise.
“Alexis chose a timely topic and conducted several lengthy interviews with museum staff around the country who had experienced water damage at their own institutions,” said Nichols. “This initiative also had the important benefit of expanding her personal professional network.”
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.
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. A Ph.D. program is currently under development.