History of Art and Architecture

Museum Studies

Why do museums collect, preserve and exhibit objects and artifacts? How do they enrich our understanding of what it means to be human, and enlighten our place in the world? And how can new forms of museum practice better foster diversity, equity and inclusion?

Founded as a single course over a decade ago, Pitt’s Museum Studies program has grown into an innovative, hands-on major (with a minor option) that sets students up for success in a range of cultural sector careers. Students in this program learn about the histories and politics of museology, and develop the critical and theoretical tools to grapple with the ethical complexities of collecting and preserving works of art, visual and material culture. They work directly with objects to discover how to tell compelling stories that connect with diverse audiences.

Project-based curatorial training, collection-engaged capstone projects and customized internship placements provide students with rich learning experiences oriented towards career development. By focusing on the public presentation of historical and creative research, Museum Studies is a perfect complement for students of Anthropology, Communication, History, History of Art and Architecture and Studio Arts, and is broadly relevant to students from other disciplines keen to foreground public outreach and engagement in their studies.

The University Art Gallery is a key hub for the Museum Studies major, providing a socially-oriented think tank to experiment with new forms of museum practice and community building. Students benefit from collaborations with Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh partners, our network of local museums and archives working together to foster research, teaching and public engagement. In collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, our shared Lecturer in Curatorial Studies leads exciting projects that let students engage with the people and resources of one of the nation’s foremost natural history museums. Museum studies classes are taught by faculty in History of Art and Architecture whose approach is informed by their own experiences at institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Tate Modern. 

The Museum Studies program positions students for a wide range of careers in the cultural and non-profit sectors. According to a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Labor, jobs for archivists, curators and museum professionals are projected to grow 9% over the coming decade, an above average outlook compared to other sectors. Our students have gained admission to leading masters programs in museum studies at Georgetown University, New York University and University College London. Graduates of our program have secured competitive internships at the National Portrait Gallery and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Many have gone on to professional roles at such institutions as the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art and Sotheby’s, and a wide variety of roles in arts, events, communications, and cultural and public policy across the country, and around the world.

For the most current course requirements, please refer to the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Studies Department's program requirements sheet for the Museum Studies major.

Museum Studies Student-Curated Exhibitions

Students in the Museum Studies program have the opportunity to enroll in HAA1019 Curatorial Development and/or HAA1020 Exhibition Development, to contribute to the realization of a public exhibition at the University Art Gallery. Previous exhibitions are listed below:

2023 Printing Culture: Gráfica de Puerto Rico, 1958-63

Project led by Jennifer Josten and Alyssa Velazquez (Carnegie Museum of Art)

2022 Andrey Avinoff: Fantastic Visions

Project led by Alex J. Taylor 

2021 Women of Visions Celebrating 40 Years

Project led by Alex J. Taylor and Janet McCall (Contemporary Craft)

2020 A Nostalgic Filter: Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age

Project led by Shirin Fozi

2019 The Curious Drawings of Doctor Clapp

Project led by Christopher Nygren and Alex J. Taylor

2018 This is Not Ideal: Gender Myths and their Transformation

Project led by Alex J. Taylor

2017 Narratives of the Nationality Rooms: Immigration and Identity in Pittsburgh

Project led by Shirin Fozi

2016 Paradoxes of Play: Concrete and Conceptualist Proposals from Brazil and Beyond

Project led by Jennifer Josten

2015 Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts

Project led by Janet McCall (Contemporary Craft)

2014 Exhibition^3: Documenta 5; Harald Szeemann; the Artists

Project led by Terry Smith

2013 Re-strike: The Life and Work of Gertrude Quastler

Project led by Janet McCall (Contemporary Craft)

2013 Martin Creed: More and Less

Project led by Nicholas Chambers (The Andy Warhol Museum)

2012 Face Value: (De)Constructing Identity in Portraiture

Project led by Janet McCall (Contemporary Craft)