Graduate Schools: University of Delaware

First, dear readers, my apologies for our unexpected hiatus! We have a lot of excellent posts coming up, and will be back on our regular Tuesday/Friday schedule. Today we have a post about the University of Delaware from Kate Duffy. Kate completed her masters degree in History with certificate in Museum Studies at the University of Delaware in May 2012. Through a Fulbright grant, she is living in Montreal, Quebec this year, carrying out a public history project on the built environment and collective memory. She blogs at Wunderplatz.

Name of School: University of Delaware
Location: Newark, Delaware
Program Emphasis: Museum Studies certificate as optional component of any masters or PhD program at the university. Hands-on projects at small museums and historic sites.

If you’d like to focus on a specific academic subject while also developing general museum- related skills, the University of Delaware would be an ideal choice!

Not only was I a student at UD, but I worked for the Museum Studies Program as a graduate assistant for two years. It opened a lot of doors for me, and I’m happy to share an inside view of the program.

First, the basic details. Museum Studies at the University of Delaware is a 12-credit certificate program open to any masters or doctoral student at UD.  While the program is administered by the Department of History and attracts many public history types, students in recent years have come from a range of other departments, including Art History, Plant and Soil Sciences, the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture, the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and Historic Preservation.

To complete the certificate, students must take at least three Museum Studies courses.  One is a required intro course on the theory, history, and future of museums (think weird engravings of wunderkammeren and discussions on how museums are evolving in the digital age). Most other Museum Studies courses are practical in nature, focusing on different aspects of museum work: exhibitions, archives, collections management, and so on.  These courses are usually taught by adjunct professors who work in the field, and they often involve a group project undertaken in partnership with an area institution. One class recently catalogued the collection of Old Swedes Church while another created educational programs for kids at Auburn Heights Preserve.


The Laurel Project Team

Students also fulfill a 380-hour internship requirement, either over the summer break or bit by bit over the course of the program. I spent the summer at the Rosenbach, a rare books museum in Philadelphia. (Yes, Philly is within commuting distance!) Some students have jetted off to intern in Bermuda or Montana while others have stayed closer to home, interning at nearby museums like Winterthur and the Hagley Museum & Library.

Even beyond internships and class projects, partnerships with area museums are a major focus of the program. (In fact, Museum Studies recently received a major grant from IMLS to create more links between graduate students and the local museum community.) Museum Studies sponsors optional work projects over the winter break; one year a group of us went down to Laurel, Delaware for two weeks and helped volunteers at a historical society catalog, clean, and rehouse their collections. Partners tend to be small historical organizations rather than big city temples to art or science, but the lessons learned are transferable to other settings.

As for the vibe of the program, it is small and close-knit, with about 10 students in each cohort.  You have the sense that professors are invested in your success and will help you in whatever way they can. The academic year is peppered with Museum Studies events, ranging from happy hours and tea parties to resume workshops and field trips.

It helps that the University of Delaware offers funding to many masters students.  I did not have to pay for my degree—in fact, the university paid me through my assistantship. This is an incredible benefit in a time when many museum studies students leave their programs burdened by tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Without loans to pay back, one is more at liberty to accept low-paid but intriguing opportunities after the program ends.

All said, UD is excellent. I arrived with a one-page resume chronicling four years of work in development and marketing. I left with a two-pager detailing all sorts of invaluable new experiences in historical research, collections, and education that I would not have had otherwise.

If you would like to learn more about the program, I’d suggest visiting the program web page and reading back issues of the program newsletter (edited and designed for two years by yours truly). I’d also be happy to answer any questions via email; drop me a line at

Best of luck in your grad school quest!

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