HIST811/AMST857 Museum Scholarship Practicum

Students will devise and carry out a research program using collections at the Smithsonian or another approved institution, and will work under joint supervision of a museum staff member and UMCP faculty member. Students already in the program should arrange the practicum with a museum professional in consultation with their certificate program advisor.

The practicum is a research and creative project that has at its core a research paper that might be thought of as a graduate seminar paper. Generally the practicum consists of three components:  a research paper, the practicum product, and a reflection essay.

Previous students have planned (and sometimes executed) exhibitions, written exhibition catalogs, produced a grant application to support a proposed exhibition, designed a walking tour for a historic site or district or a special topics docent tour for an exhibition, developed an annotated bibliography of born-digital museums, proposed an alternative interpretive plan for an historic site, or simply provided research needed to display or interpret a museum collection.


Practicum projects should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Be developed in connection with a specific museum or historic site and with the supervision of a U-MD faculty member and a museum professional
  • Be centered on research and interpretation of some kind of material culture
  • Consist of the student’s own work (in other words, students should not simply perform research tasks to support a museum professional’s project).
  • Produce some kind of independent product
  • Meet professional standards of writing, design, research, timeliness, clarity, and organization
  • In the reflection essay, students should evaluate their research and development process for the project and assess how the practicum experience has contributed to their understanding of museum scholarship and material culture


Students completing the Practicum Project will enroll in AMST 857/ANTH 857/HIST 811.  Practicum projects can be completed as independent studies or as part of a class (when numbers warrant).  Projects are generally vetted by the Steering Committee of the Museum Scholarship and Material Culture certificate program at two stages:  1) when the student submits a proposal for the project and 2) when he or she submits a draft of the project.

NOTE: Students working with a museum professional at any Smithsonian museum and planning to work directly with artifacts must register with the Office of Fellowships and Grants and go through a fingerprinting and security screening procedure.  The process takes a few weeks and students should plan accordingly.  Other museums and historic sites may have similar security and access protocols and students should inquire ahead of time about these issues and allow time to complete them.


Recent Practicum Projects:

Catalog: To Belong: Life Histories of Immigrants and their Artifacts in Prince Georges County

Collection Research: Report: A Case of Mistaken Identity: One Object’s Journey from Antiquity to the Present

Collection Research: Nordic Ware at the NMAH (includes detailed historic timeline)

Collection Research: The Rosewell Plantation Archaeological Artifact Collection at the NMAH

Collection Research: Understanding Identity Through Collection Practices

Database: An Annotated Bibliography of Online Museums: Discovering Their Variety, Significance, and Potential

Docent Guide: To Be Called To Serve: Research on Representations of Women in the NMAH’s Price of Freedom exhibit

Exhibition: Reconstructing and Interpreting the Interlocking Block Tower at the Bowie RR Museum

Exhibition: Charles Ball’s Narrative of Life as a Slave and The Sukeek’s Cabin Site, a Contribution to “The Past is What We Make of It” at the Jefferson-Patterson Park & Museum

Exhibition: Child’s Play: The Evolution of Children’s Toys and Games from Antiquity to the Modern Era, an exhibition planned for Amazement Square

Exhibition: “Beans are Bullets” and “Of Course I Can!”: Exhibiting War-Era Posters from the Collection of the National Agricultural Library

Walking Tour: African-Descended Places at Mount Clare and Georgia in Carroll Park, Baltimore