Museum Studies

Museum Studies

What relationship has the university subject of museum studies had with the museum sector? It is often claimed that there is an oversupply of graduates in museum studies ill-equipped to work in museums, an issue that reveals tensions between understandings of academic study and practical experience. This article addresses these tensions between museums and museum studies through a survey of the historical development of museums and the closely related development of training, professional development and university degrees. The generalist role of the museum worker in the embryonic museums of colonial New Zealand did not require formal academic training. The 1930s witnessed a turning point with grants for professional development from the Carnegie Corporation. The Second World War disrupted the museum sector but from the 1950s museums experienced rapid growth in type and number, developments requiring larger numbers of specialised staff. At the same time the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the museum branch of UNESCO were formed, along with a national professional body The Art gallery and Museums Association of New Zealand (AGMANZ), which provided an international and local voice and focus for the museum sector. Finally, in the 1960s, only 100 years after the first museum was opened, we see the birth of museum-centred training programmes first administered by the museum sector and in the late 1980s by the university. The article concludes that the increasingly complex and specialised museum profession and the increasingly sophisticated academic analysis of museums emerged at the same time and are inevitably and necessarily intertwined.

Introduction

What is the relationship of museum studies to the museum sector? Does museum studies provide the kind of qualification that museums require and how might the academic subject develop in future so that it maintains a vital relationship to the museum profession? In mid 2006 a debate about museum studies and museums erupted in the normally polite pages of the Museums Journal. Research in the UK by the Museums Association claimed that there was an oversupply of graduates in museum studies, and that Masters degrees were not necessarily essential or relevant to the industry. The implication was that profitable university programmes churned out too many people for too few jobs without preparing them for the realities of the workplace. Subsequently, the journal published letters from graduates who could not get jobs.

These issues are echoed in New Zealand where a small museum sector and even smaller number of tertiary providers are attempting to match their needs, roles and expectations. Research based on interviews with mid-career museum professionals suggests that staff already held advanced qualifications, and did not really need further postgraduate study. In addition, the new generation of museum staff sought different sets of skills – such as project management, marketing, strategic management and financial planning – which were not necessarily included on museum studies courses or provided through museum-based training or mentoring. In 2006 one of the authors of this article informally investigated the feasibility of a proposed new museum studies programme. This prompted the question: did New Zealand need yet another museum studies qualification? Would a postgraduate programme that focused on museum history, philosophy and theory actually prepare a graduate for museum practice?

It is important at this point to distinguish ‘museum studies’ from what museum historians, such as Wittlin, refer to as ‘museology’. Museology encompasses training in all aspects of museum practice, including the various techniques and processes to do with collections, exhibitions, conservation, education and other practices. These skills were most likely to have been taught via intensive short courses and supported by industry-based training manuals, internships and fellowships. While some of these practices continue today, especially in science museums, all forms of museum training provided by the sector up until the 1960s can be referred to as museology.

In contrast, museum studies can be described as ‘the academic analysis of museum history, theory and practice, a critical examination of diverse aspects of museums within their social context’. Museum studies is broader than museology, and draws from related disciplines such as art history, history, sociology and anthropology as well as newer fields including cultural studies, gender studies, leisure studies and so on. This ‘expanded field’ of museum studies has the virtue of drawing on a wider and more sophisticated range of theories and methods, but has to maintain a balance between the analysis of internal processes and external contexts so as to avoid becoming over-theorised and divorced from everyday practice in museums.

In order to understand this related set of questions about the field of museum studies and the industry to which it is inextricably linked, this article traces the historical development of museums and museum studies in New Zealand. We believe that the situation today – the tensions between notions of theory and practice, skills and training, and education and experience – can be clarified by analysing how museums developed over the last 100 years and what role the academic analysis of museums has played. This historical survey of museums and museum studies is organised into three periods. First, we touch on the early colonial museums, from the 1860s to the 1920s, primarily to highlight the lack of professional specialisation common in these embryonic museums. The second period, from the 1930s to the 1950s, traces the birth of the museum profession. Despite the Great Depression and the Second World War, museums in New Zealand and Australia were enriched by grants from the American Carnegie Corporation. The postwar period witnessed a rapid growth in the type and number of museums all requiring specialised museum staff. At the same time the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the museum branch of UNESCO were formed, providing an international voice for museums, and a New Zealand museums association AGMANZ provided support on a local level including the first training courses. The third period from the 1960s traces the development of university-based museum studies in the last twenty years.

Embryonic Museums

It is hard not to over-romanticise images of early colonial museums in New Zealand, judging by present day responses to historical photographs. An exhibition at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch reconstructs the museum in its earliest days: the old wooden display cases are jammed full of an extraordinary range of objects, including sea shells from around the Pacific, specimens of New Zealand rocks, flora and fauna, and ancient Greek and Roman coins. Roped-off in one corner are the larger objects, each with a hand-written label: a replica of the Rosetta stone lies next to a stuffed crocodile, both are overseen by a skeleton of the extinct Irish elk. However, the founding director Julius von Haast corresponded with Darwin and traded specimens with foreign museums for moa bones found in a local swamp in his campaign to establish the institution as a professional body, and, naturally, to consolidate his personal reputation.

These images of cluttered displays and chaotic collecting by amateur naturalists are somewhat misleading, as the first museums in this young settler colony were firmly established on European lines and reproduced in modest form the emerging professional shape of the new public museum in Britain in the mid-late Victorian period. The Nelson museum was founded on route to New Zealand before the settlers had even arrived, and this was only one year after the birth of the nation marked by the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Public museums were gradually established in the four main centres from the 1850s to the 1870s. Art galleries had a slightly different genealogy, and were established from the 1880s often in close association with art schools and art societies. Museums mostly collected geology and natural history specimens as an integral part of the process of exploration, colonisation and economic development but were also part of the professionalisation of science. In the capital city Wellington in 1865, government scientist James Hector established the Colonial Museum along with the Geological Survey and other bodies. Here the New Zealand Institute met and gentlemen scholars read learned papers published in their journal the Transactions and Proceedings of the New Zealand Institure. Around the country, other private societies and their museums sprang up where local elites amassed collections and discussed the intellectual affairs of the day.

Little is known about the education and qualifications of these early museum professionals in New Zealand, but it is reasonable to assume that as in other countries in the new world such as Australia, Canada and the United States they did not lag too far behind the Old World. At the Colonial Museum, Hector's staff worked with him on geological surveys and scientific field work and ‘they needed little training in their work’. Early museum workers were forced to be generalists who had to systematise collections, organise displays and undertake research across a range of subjects. Most museums had a small number of staff with a curator or keeper doing the scientific research and collecting, and an assistant who was responsible for the displays or administrative duties. Education was unheard of and public programmes took place mostly via lectures and exhibitions. While most museums operated within a legal constitution it is unlikely the museum staff would have been affiliated with the (British) Museums Association.

Did those in far-flung colonial museums feel the desire or need to follow a particular code of practice or learn about the latest display methods? Perhaps such connections would have been useful for networking and specimen trading rather than professional development. It would be a mistake however to assume that museums in late 19th-century New Zealand were a quiet backwater, and the evidence suggests that most people were very much in touch with developments in Britain, Europe and North America. A survey of colonial museums by the British Museums Association in 1894 approved of most metropolitan museums, although the Colonial Museum was criticised for being behind the times. By the First World War, despite the consolidation of some institutions and the expansion of their collections in ethnology and art, and the continuing energy of hardworking staff, there were signs of stagnation. At the Colonial and later Dominion Museum (which later still became the National Museum and now Te Papa) the director Augustus Hamilton kept in touch with new ideas through publications and contact with colleagues overseas but complained of lack of space, money and resources to implement much needed changes. The next director, J. A. Thomson was a scientist and Rhodes Scholar who was certainly familiar with the international literature on museums and the new emphasis on public display and education. Quoting the Museums Journal, he wrote that visitors may find old museums ‘uninteresting’, but ‘modern methods of installation’ would make them more attractive.

Local Growth and Foreign Money

The birth of the modern public museum was accompanied not long after by courses in museology, and the Louvre School was established as early as the 1880s. By the early twentieth century, training for museum professionals was available from a variety of providers: the American Association of Museums established a formal training programme for museum staff in 1908, and soon after John Cotton Dana set up classes at the Newark Museum. The first museum studies programme at tertiary level was offered by Harvard University in 1920, and the Diploma of the (British) Museums Association was first established in 1930.

What makes an ideal curator? According to the Report on the Public Museums of the British Isles, published by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust in 1928,

a curator, in addition to a good general education and administrative ability, must have some technical knowledge of at least one, and preferably more than one, of the subjects covered by the museum; an instinct for scientific and artistic exhibition; a zeal for, and acquaintance with, educational work and research; and he should be able to and willing to act as a teacher. . . . It should also be noted that the specialist knowledge required is often that of a university degree.

For staff working in British museums, the days of the untrained amateur were over, but what was happening in the South Pacific? There was some development in the 1920s and early 1930s, such as major new museum buildings in Auckland and Wellington and new regional art galleries in Whanganui, Christchurch, and Dunedin. A handful of published reports and unpublished documents from the time comment on these developments. W. R. B. Oliver promoted education in his report on New Zealand museums for the London-based Museums Association in 1933. The following year the Governor General Lord Bledisloe expanded on the theme of education in his speech at the laying of the foundation stone for the new National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. He said that the new institutions should become ‘not a storehouse of fusty and ill-assorted curios and a farrago of artistic mediocrity, but a source of intellectual and aesthetic enlightenment which will vitalise every sphere of educational effort’. Apart from texts like the above, periodic critic's reviews, and scientific journals which were published regularly by the Dominion Museum from 1906, Canterbury Museum from 1907, and Auckland Museum from 1930, generally there is a dearth of literature that hampers the present-day analysis of museum history.

Progress was fitful, and overall museums in New Zealand and Australia were experiencing serious problems – their popularity was waning in competition with cinema and other popular culture attractions and there was little money for operational budgets let alone staff. Lofty ideas of the importance of education could not be implemented. However, help was at hand in the form of the Carnegie Corporation from New York, the world's largest philanthropic trust, whose Napoleonic programmes reached all corners of the globe. The Corporation's mandate was to transmit an appreciation of traditionally elite culture by enlightening public taste. This was done directly via education programmes in schools and providing resources to high-culture agencies such as museums, art galleries and libraries. In the early 1930s it turned its attention to New Zealand museums, and funded a major report to assess the state of the museum sector and to identify professional development for staff. As a consequence of the report's recommendations a number of museum staff received further Carnegie funds to travel overseas, primarily to the USA, to see good examples of museum practice and attend training workshops.

Two proposals in the Carnegie Report were very influential in the shaping of the New Zealand museum sector. First, the museum staff needed to see examples of good practice: ‘[T]he museum movement in New Zealand would gain tremendously if selected curators and assistants, including taxidermists etc., could be given the opportunity of visiting the best museums in American and Europe’. Travel grants were set up and over the next few years a handful of museum staff from New Zealand and Australia visited the USA for six- to twelve-month periods. Second, it was recommended that a professional organisation should be set up so that museum staff from New Zealand and Australia could meet annually and share ideas. Consequently, the Art Galleries and Museums Association of Australia and New Zealand (AGMA) was founded in 1937. It was recommended that the association address such issues as ensuring that museums benefited from regular government funding, and sharing of information between staff via exchanges, meetings and conferences etc.

The Report also noted that it was ‘on the educational side that many New Zealand museums like Australian museums are at their weakest’. So in 1935 the President of the Carnegie Corporation, Frederick Keppel, visited New Zealand to ‘hold discussions on possible assistance to museums and art galleries for educational work’. A year later a separate Carnegie grant of US$50,000 was given to the New Zealand Council of Educational Research for the improvement of museum education. Museum education officer positions (employing trained teachers) were established in the four metropolitan centres. The Carnegie-funded museum education experimental plan was documented in H. C. McQueen's report, Education in New Zealand Museums. McQueen wrote that ‘prior to 1938 unaccompanied children were often turned away from museums, yet after that date leisure-time visits were actively encouraged by the provision of special exhibits, museum trails, games and so on’.

Innovative education programmes did not suddenly arrive in 1938: there are examples peppered throughout New Zealand museum history, such as Elsdon Best's lectures on Māori art at the Dominion Museum from 1917, and Lucy Cranwell-Smith's popular ‘botany trots’, in 1933–34.38 However, it must be acknowledged that of all the Carnegie proposals the education initiative had the most lasting impact on New Zealand museums which can be seen in a stronger notion of professional development for staff, the establishment of a schools service, and modern ideas in design and display which started to be disseminated around the country's museums from 1936 to 1941. Interestingly, museums weren't the only cultural institution to benefit from the Carnegie initiatives, as 15 much-needed libraries were set up around New Zealand by the Carnegie Foundation. In addition a training course for librarians was established because ‘without good and qualified staff, the selection and organization of the book collection would suffer, and good buildings could not be planned’.

Emerging Professionalism

The Second World War disrupted the work of New Zealand's museum workers – many staff were seconded to support the war effort, and in some instances museums closed down completely, while others cut back on their programmes and opening hours. In 1944 Walter Oliver followed up on his 1933 report with another survey of the state of museums: New Zealand Museums: Present Establishment and Future Policy. Oliver noted that there was still an urgent need for training and that it was the responsibility of the museum to ‘improve the knowledge and experience of staff’. Once more, Oliver noted that staff would benefit from visiting or working in other museums.

The AGMA was the forum for museum staff to keep up to date with their colleagues across the Tasman. Examining a 1950 issue of AGMA's News Bulletin reveals the types of professional issues facing people who worked in museums: collecting, doing research, and running education programmes, juxtaposed with practical tips on how to build display cases. The editorial urged museum staff to undertake the Diploma of the Museums Association, London. The regional roundups of each of the states in Australia and the main museums in New Zealand itemised significant acquisitions to museum collections, field trips undertaken by museum staff, special exhibitions or education programmes, and staff appointments. Some of the summaries included workshops and conferences held or attended.

In the postwar period there was a rapid increase around the world in the number of museums, which were becoming increasingly specialised. These decades saw the rise of children's museums, history museums, museums of modern art, science museums, outdoor museums, heritage parks and historic house museums. Each type of museum required specialised museum staff. While museums in the USA and Canada were undergoing great expansion, and European museums struggled with recovery from the war, the moment had come for the establishment of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). ICOM was formed in 1946 and administered from its Paris office. Its mission was to promote natural and cultural heritage worldwide and its goals were as follows: professional cooperation and exchange; raising public awareness of museums; professional development for staff; advancement of professional standards in museums; dissemination of a code of ethics for museum staff; and promoting the preservation of cultural heritage and preventing illicit cultural trade. Also in 1946 ICOM created formal relations with UNESCO and established a museum information centre. Even under ICOM, training for museum staff was still organised and controlled from within the museum profession.

New Zealand professionals were closely involved in the AGMA, but it was not long before they set up their own professional organisation in an effort to improve the training and pay of staff. In 1947 the Art Gallery and Museum Association of New Zealand (AGMANZ) was formed. In April 1948 AGMANZ's first objectives for museum staff were established, they were to:

provide a means for improving the status and qualifications of curators and staff and ensure they receive adequate remuneration, and arrange and hold courses on administrative and technical matters and issue appropriate diplomas and certificates.

A newsletter and later journal, fellowships, and regular meetings and conferences all helped create the sense of a national museum sector across the country. The pages of the AGMANZ Journal in the 1960s and 1970s were full of new ideas, debate and tremendous energy. AGMANZ was a professional forum which facilitated the rise of a new generation of museum professionals who had undertaken postgraduate university degrees in subjects like history, anthropology and art history. These young people were engaged in the new social movements of the time which were transforming New Zealand society in a period of domestic decolonisation, and they were determined to change the way museums did things to reflect this new thinking.

In a major postwar period of redevelopment, museums in New Zealand caught up with international museum practices in most areas but also began to focus on the country's own cultural heritage and national identity. International visitors were generally positive about the state of local museology. There was an expansion in buildings and staff, advances in professionalisation, rising standards in display, and a broadening of collecting to include different branches of science, social history, decorative arts, and photography. The 1960s and 1970s saw major growth in regional art galleries which championed social issues and contemporary New Zealand art. Research in physical sciences and anthropology increasingly shifted to universities, so the object/specimen-based epistomology governing museum collections was increasingly out of date with the result that natural history and ethnographic exhibition were often criticised as being static, old fashioned and ethnocentric. In the 1980s, the famous ‘Te Maori’ exhibition brought about wide reaching changes in the management and display of Māori collections which were reclaimed by Māori communities in a dramatic reversal of colonial dispossession. Lagging behind Europe and North America for much of its history, New Zealand museums now led the way in terms of postcolonial collaboration with indigenous peoples.

The New Museology and Its Aftermath

Why did museum training gradually shift from the profession to the academy? Growth was one contributing factor: the number of museums, the size of museums, the types of museums and the requirements for specialised museum staff. Museum roles were no longer confined to that of curator/keeper and assistant curator/secretary, and needed specialists such as conservators, designers, teachers, collection managers (or registrars), as well as a range of management and front of house roles. Such growth and specialisation indicated that the profession had come of age; this was certainly supported by ICOM's code of ethics for museum staff and the demand for international museum-based conferences. By the 1960s museums had simply become too big and diversified to administer all aspects of museum training. It was possible for the sector to run short professional development courses but the time had come for the education of museum workers to be transferred to the university.

In 1966 the University of Leicester instituted the first university department dedicated to training people who wished to work in museums. These early museum studies programmes were designed to ‘train entrants into the museum profession’. Programmes were usually taught at postgraduate level as students already had a degree in a museum-related subject. Students were enculturated into all aspects of the museum world, from the history and philosophy of museums to various museum practices. The theory was balanced with a placement or internship in order to give the students a taste of real museum work. University programmes appeared in the US in the 1960s, and in Australia a UNESCO seminar in 1973 led to the establishment of a university course in Sydney and a Melbourne-based course at the Prahran College of Advanced Education which later shifted to Deakin University.

University-based museum studies programmes in New Zealand are quite recent. The first programme was offered through Massey University in 1989, followed by Victoria University of Wellington in 2000 and Auckland University soon after. Prior to 1989 museum staff could study towards an industry-based qualification that was administered by AGMANZ. From 1967 to 1990 the AGMANZ Diploma was taught by people from within the museum profession and, when required, by key people outside the sector. In 1950 the News bulletin of the AGMA drew attention to ‘personnel of the Australian Museums’ that they could ‘qualify for the Diploma of the Museums Association, London’. Presumably this also included museum staff from New Zealand.

In New Zealand today three universities offer postgraduate degrees in museum studies (Auckland, Victoria and Massey). The British model combining taught courses and museum-based practicums has been adopted, while in other aspects the programmes have been adapted to local conditions where there is a very close relationship between academic staff and local museums and art galleries. Underneath this level of tertiary provision lies complex layers of support from within the museum sector: professional representation is provided by the members association Museums Aotearoa; training and resources are coordinated by National Services Te Paerangi; short courses are run by various providers including the ATTTO (Aviation Tourism and Travel Training Organisation); a manual of best practice is provided by the New Zealand Museum Standards Scheme; and a host of ICOM subcommittees regularly run conferences. As far as the professional literature is concerned, there has certainly been growth in the last two decades, as well as an increase in statistics, survey data and visitor research. What started life in the 1950s as the AGMANZ Newsletter and later Journal, then the New Zealand Museums Journal, is now an online publication called Te Ara available from the Museums Aotearoa Web site. There has been a lot of writing on topics related to New Zealand museums from a range of scholars. Notable are the doctoral theses, the first edited collection on South Pacific museums, and new monographs from an international publisher Berg whose whose museum studies list has a distinctly Antipodean flavour.

The introduction of museum studies programmes also paralleled new developments in the university. Academic disciplines, particularly in the arts and social sciences, had become more self consciously critical; questions were asked about the ways in which power and knowledge were constructed to maintain the dominance of social groups. Museums were deeply affected by this ‘democratisation’ movement; attention was drawn to improving public access and included increasing the museum's popularity and serving under-represented audiences. The debate about social exclusion was a response to criticism that museums were ‘ivory towers’ which served only the elite few. This movement in museum theory and practice was influenced by certain currents of postmodernism and postcolonialism, which sought to undermine western master narratives and replace the idea of ‘truth’ spoken by the authoritative museum voice with multiple voices and divergent perspectives. In New Zealand, particular attention was paid to the changing relationship between museums and Maori people which resulted in ‘bicultural’ museum practices.

The impact of the new museology on museum practice is widely debated, but what was important for this discussion is the new theory/practice nexus which looked beyond museum practices in isolation to the ways in which they shaped and were shaped by wider social processes. This dismantled the separation of theory and practice, dissolving the stereotype of pragmatic professionals and impractical academics and instead seeing them as ‘two sides of the same coin’. Indeed, some argue that museum studies is really a reflective practice due to its active interrelationship between academia and its associated field – in this way the museum is a ‘laboratory’ for experimentation and testing out ideas. MacLeod provides a useful formulation of museum studies as follows:

A recognition of museum studies as training and education, research and practice, and as an area of enquiry made meaningful through participation and collaboration, enables us to recognise museum studies as an integral aspect of the current museum scene, and one which can make a valuable contribution to the shaping and placing of the museum in contemporary society.

Drawing on many related disciplines, museum studies quickly developed a diverse and wide-ranging corpus of work that established its credentials as an academic field in its own right within the university and went some way towards exploring a hitherto undertheorised terrain. However, although the turn towards theory was necessary to ‘beef up’ a new subject it did arguably uncouple much research and writing from the daily realities of current museum practice. Furthermore, some academics from other disciplines enthusiastically interrogated museums without ever having worked in one, leading to rather too many abstract, overtheorised studies of museums that bore little relationship to professional issues. It is little wonder then that many critics complain that museum studies has become theory-heavy, too concerned with external social relations rather than what happens inside museums. Having said this, there is still scope for museum studies programmes in New Zealand to grow and refine the analysis of museums in our distinctive local situation. There is growing interest in several new areas of research and teaching – for example Māori heritage, environmental heritage and digital heritage – which will require new sets of skills and new methods of thinking about and doing museum work.

Clearly, museum studies is no longer vocational training preparing students for entry into museum work. Rather, it is a two-pronged academic programme that attracts students who wish to work in or know more about museums, and encourages museum professionals to think critically about their practice as well. As Rhiannon Mason has suggested, a closer relationship between universities and museums might produce a more holistic ‘theoretical museology’. Certainly there are welcome signs of a more integrated approach to the study of museums through both discursive and materialist approaches, and a better balance of history, theory and practice. Where is museum studies headed in future? Now an established field, museum studies should not revert to museology, the quasi-scientific study of museum techniques, but it does perhaps need to consolidate. If museum studies is going to provide a critical engagement with museums, then it needs to focus on the museum itself without losing sight of the society around it.

Now to return to the questions raised in the introduction. Is there an oversupply of graduates in museum studies and are these qualifications relevant to the museum sector? Anecdotal evidence suggests that museums are supportive of museum studies programmes, yet usually hire people with specialised skills or qualifications that are not museum-based: marketing, project management, financial accounting etc. This survey of the historical development of museums in New Zealand shows that the study of museums is intertwined with the nature of museum work, and that museum studies has developed the way it has because of the increasing complexity and sophistication of the museum profession.

New Zealand is in a somewhat different situation to the UK and US. It is a small sector with a handful of large institutions which have relatively short histories characterised by change – New Zealand museums are diverse, informal, flexible and porous organisations (MA Sector survey). The anecdotal evidence from universities suggests that there are a relatively small number of graduates who readily get entry level positions in the sector. It is not currently known what the replacement rate is for the aproximately 3000 professionals working in this industry, and with the economic recession there is definitely a need for the tertiary sector to work in partnership with sector organisations to set realistic goals for student numbers (rather than having targets set by ‘the market’). There is no doubt that museums will continue to hire people with degrees in a range of other subjects – this is surely a good thing for museums because it brings in fresh talent and stops the profession from becoming ossified through narrow credentialism.

Conclusion

The more important question which arises from this article then is ‘what is museum studies and what is its relationship to museums?’ To the authors, it seems that that museum studies is ideally a judicious balance of history, theory and practice which has developed alongside museums themselves and reflects their increasing complexity and sophistication. Against some conservative attempts to question the political and theoretical nature of the field today, we would argue that this critical and creative thinking is vital for a healthy profession, while acknowledging that it does need to refocus on the internal workings of museums. Museum studies programmes can prepare students for museum work to a degree, but are certainly no guarantee that they are ‘industry ready’. Students certainly require specialist knowledge in a core body of literature, as well as practical museum-based experience, but they also need a set of transferable skills that can be taken from one field of museum work to another. Museum studies programmes can also help experienced museum staff reflect on their practice, to think about what they do and why, and find new ways for undertaking their work – this perhaps is most pertinent for those whose work involves working with the community, particularly curators, interpreters and educators.

Perhaps it is best to look at museum studies programmes as a useful intellectual resource for students and museum professionals to utilise when needed, rather than an entry qualification per se or as a guarantee for promotion. In that sense it is important to distinguish between the purpose, value and demands of university museum studies courses on the one hand, and museum-based short courses which provide practical skills on the other, not to mention the provision of accreditation, training and continuous professional development. Museum studies can certainly expand to incorporate new topics and needs, and it will always maintain a vital relationship between theory and practice, but it cannot and should not replicate sub-degree skills-based courses – it seems to us that postgraduate courses will always be better suited to the critical exploration of historical and philosophical frameworks than teaching students how to handle a painting or do a condition report. The criticism of university courses being impractical should be leavened with some acknowledgement of the value to professionals of advanced academic study, reading the literature and undertaking original research and writing – not least to equip them with the ideas and intellectual framework to make sense of constant change, challenges and new technologies. While museum studies cannot do without museums, on the other hand, without museum studies museums themselves could turn inward and become overconcerned with technocratic matters at the expense of the analysis of broader social and political issues. To do so would deny the history outlined here, which shows the close mutual relationship between universities and museums, professionals and academics, and theory and practice.

Short Biographies

Joanna Cobley has a Ph.D. from the University of Canterbury and was one of the first graduates from the Massey University museum studies programme. In February 2007 she was shortlisted for the New Zealand Radio Awards and in July she gave up her day job to focus on her work as a podcaster and guest lecturer.

Dr Conal McCarthy is Director of the Museum & Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington. Conal has worked as a teacher, museum educator and interpreter, curator and lecturer. His research interests include museum history and theory, visitor research, Māori art and contemporary heritage issues. His first book, a study of colonial architecture in North Otago, was published in 2002, and his second book Exhibiting Māori was published in 2007. Conal is currently conducting research for his next book which will deal with museums and biculturalism.

Notes
  • Correspondence address: P.O. Box 600, Victoria University of Wellington.

  • M. Davies, ‘Comment and Analysis: Just the Job’, Museums Journal, May 2006, 11.

  • J. Holt, ‘News Analysis: Survey Says Museum Studies Course Content Must Change’, Museums Journal, October 2006,15.

  • ‘Letters: Are Masters Degrees a Waste of Time’, Museums Journal, July 2006, 16. See also the response from Prof Simon Knell, Museum studies department, University of Leicester. ‘Letters: Museum Studies Sets Us on Track’, Museums Journal, July 2006, 14.

  • J. Cobley, ‘The Museum Profession in New Zealand: A Case Study in Economic Restructuring and Investigating the Movement Towards Feminisation’, Ph.D. diss. (University of Canterbury, 2002).

  • A. Wittlin, Museums: In Search of a Useable Future (Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press, 1970).

  • B. Labrum and C. McCarthy, ‘Museum Studies and Museums: Bringing Together Theory and Practice’, Te Ara: Special Issue – Museum Studies in New Zealand, 30/2 (November 2005): 5.

  • S. Macdonald, ‘Expanding Museum Studies: An Introduction’, in S. Macdonald (ed.), A Companion to Museum Studies (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 1–16.

  • H. F. von Haast, The Life and Times of Sir Julius Von Haast: Explorer, Geologist, Museum Builder (Wellington: Avery Press, 1948).

  • R. Falla, ‘Museums’, in Laura Salt and John Pascoe (eds), Oxford New Zealand Encyclopedia: Companion Volume to the Oxford Junior Encyclopedia (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), 255–57.

  • R. K. Dell, ‘Museums’, in A. H. McLintok (ed.), An Encyclopedia of New Zealand (Wellington: Government printer, 1966), 602.

  • S. MacLennan, ‘Art in New Zealand’, in McLintock (ed.), Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 92–9.

  • R. Galbreath, ‘Colonisation, Science and Conservation: The Development of Colonial Attitudes towards the Native Life of New Zealand with Particular Reference to the Career of the Colonial Scientist Walter Lawry Buller (1838–1906)’, Ph.D diss. (University of Waikato, 1989); Galbreath, Scholars and Gentlemen Both: G. M. & Alan Thomson in New Zealand Science and Education (Wellington: Royal Society, 2002).

  • C. McCarthy, ‘Displaying Natural History: Colonial Museum’, in S. Nathan and M. Varnham (eds), The Amazing World of James Hector (Wellington: Te Awa Press, 2008), 49–61.

  • F. L. Reid, ‘Promoting Science: New Zealand Institute’, in S. Nathan and M. Varnham (eds), The Amazing World of James Hector (Wellington: Te Awa Press, 2008), 63–72.

  • K. Astwood, ‘Reframing Colonial Collecting: A Study of 19th Century Collectors and Collecting at the Hawkes Bay Philosophical Institute’, Masters diss. (Victoria University, 2008).

  • J. Orosz, Curators and Culture: The Museum Movement in America, 1740–1870 (Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1990).

  • R. K. Dell, Dominion Museum 1865–1965 (Wellington: Dominion Museum, 1965), 4.

  • A. Henare, Museums, Anthropology and Imperial Exchange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

  • F. A. Bather, Some Colonial Museums (London: Museums Association, 1894).

  • A. Hamilton, ‘Notes for the Information of Members of Both Houses of Parliament, in the Matter of the National Maori Museum Proposed to Be Erected in Wellington to Carry out the Provisions of the Maori Antiquities Act of 1901, and to Be a Permanent Memorial to the Past History of the Maori People’ (Dunedin: Fergusson and Mitchell, 1902); Colonial Museum Bulletin, No. 1, 1905 (Wellington: Government Printer, 1906).

  • J. A. Thomson, ‘Special Reports: Some Principles of Museum Administration Affecting the Future Development of the Dominion Museum’, Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (Wellington: Government Printer, 1915), 9–19.

  • P. D. Speiss, ‘Museum Studies: Are They Doing Their Job?’, Museum News, November/December 1996, 32–40.

  • Labrum and McCarthy, ‘Museum Studies and Museums’, 6.

  • S. F. Markham and H. C. Richards, Australian Report: A Report on the Museums and Art Galleries of Australia and New Zealand to the Carnegie Corporation of New York (London: Museums Association, 1933), 25.

  • K. Thomson, Art Galleries and Museums of New Zealand (Wellington: Reed, 1981).

  • C. B. Bledisloe, The Proper Function and Scope of a National Art Gallery and Museum. An Address Given When Laying the Foundation-Stone of the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum at Wellington, April 14, 1934 (Auckland: Wilson & Horton, 1934), 2.

  • B. Gill, ‘Records of the Auckland Museum – 75 Years of publication, 1930–2005’, Te Ara, 30/2 (November 2005): 37–8.

  • L. Ryan, ‘Forging Diplomacy: The Carnegie Corporation and the “Art of Australia” Exhibition’, Australian Association for Educational Research Conference, 2002.

  • S. F. Markham and W. R. B. Oliver, New Zealand Report: A Report on the Museums and Art Galleries of Australia and New Zealand to the Carnegie Corporation of New York (London: Museums Association, 1933).

  • Ibid., 84.

  • H. C. Richards, ‘Third Presidential Report of the Art Galleries and Museums Association of Australia and New Zealand for the period 30th June 1940 to 31st December 1942’ (Wellington: Te Papa Archives, 1942), 14–18.

  • Markham and Oliver, New Zealand Report.

  • C. Hall, Grandma's Attic or Aladdin's Cave: Museum Education Services for Children (Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 1981), 14.

  • Ibid., 15.

  • H. C. McQueen, Education in New Zealand Museums: An Account of Experiments Assisted by the Carnegie Corporation of New York (Wellington: NZCER, 1942).

  • C. Hall, Grandma's Attic or Aladdin's Cave, 16.

  • W. K. Cameron, ‘Obituary: Lucy May Cranwell, MA, DSc, DSFLS(Lond.), FRSNZ, 1907–2000’, New Zealand Journal of Botany, 38 (2000): 531.

  • M. K. Rochester, The Revolution in New Zealand Librarianship: American Influence as Facilitation by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the 1930s (Halifax, Novia Scotia: Dalhousie University, School of Library and Information Studies, 1990), iv.

  • Dell, Dominion Museum, 19.

  • W. R. B. Oliver, New Zealand Museums: Present Establishment and Future Policy (Wellington: Dominion Museum, 1944), 22.

  • AGMA: News Bulletin of the Art Galleries and Museums Association of Australia and New Zealand, no. 4, August (1950): 1.

  • Wittlin, Museums; K. Hudson, ‘The Museum Refuses to Stand Still’, in B. M. Carbonell (ed.), Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004).

  • ICOM Web site.

  • D. Monz, ‘Implications of the Development of Museums in Australia for the Early History of New Zealand 1915–45’, Te Ara, 28/1 (May 2005): 48.

  • Dell, ‘Museums’, 604.

  • National Register of Archives and Manuscripts.

  • K. Gorbey, Unpublished interview by Conal McCarthy, 14 October 2008.

  • J. Belich, Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000 (Auckland: Allen Lane and Penguin, 2001), 392, 425, 463–5.

  • A. Alpers, ‘High Praise for Our Museums’, Home and Building, 18/11 (1956): 21; O. Royston, ‘A Visit to New Zealand’, The Museums Journal, 57/10 (1958): 231. For a local series of articles on New Zealand museums, see E. Phillips, ‘The Museums of New Zealand’, New Zealand Journal of Agriculture, 79 (1949): 407–12. See also: vols. 80, 81 (1950); vol. 82 (1951).

  • Dell, Dominion Museum, 20–1; Thomson, Art Galleries and Museums, 3–15.

    McCredie, ‘Going Public: New Zealand Art Museums in the 1970s’, MA diss. (Massey University, 1999).

  • H. M. Mead, Magnificent Te Maori: Te Maori Whakahirahira (Auckland: Heinemann, 1986).

  • P. Boylan, ‘The Museum Profession’, in S. Macdonald (ed.), A Companion to Museum Studies (Malden MA: Blackwell, 2006), 415–30.

  • Wittlin, Museums, 169.

  • AGMA, 1.

  • For more information on these programmes, see Labrum and McCarthy, ‘Museum Studies and Museums’.

  • J. Legget, ‘Making Museums Count’, Te Ara, 32/1–2 (2007).

  • Te Ara: Journal of Museums Aotearoa, 32/1 (December 2007).

  • J. Legget, ‘Recent Doctoral Theses Relating to New Zealand Museums and Collections’, Te Ara, 30/2 (November 2005): 39–41.

  • C. Healy and A. Witcomb (eds), South Pacific Museums: Experiments in Culture (Melbourne: Monash University ePress, 2006).

  • K. Message, New Museums and the Making of Culture (Oxford/New York, NY: Berg, 2006); C. McCarthy, Exhibiting Maori: A History of Colonial Cultures of Display (Oxford/New York, NY: Berg, 2007); P. Williams, Memorial Museums: The Global Rush to Commemorate Atrocities (Oxford and New York: Blackwell, 2007).

  • S. MacDonald (ed.), The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture (London/New York, NY: Routledge, 1998).

  • P. Vergo (ed.), The New Museology (London: Reaktion Books, 1989).

  • Deidre C. Stam, ‘The Informed Muse: The Implications of “the New Museology” for Museum Practice’, in G. Corsane (ed.), Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader (Oxford/New York, NY: Routledge, 2005), 54–70.

  • Labrum and McCarthy, ‘Museum Studies and Museums’, 4.

  • J. L. Teather, ‘Museum Studies: Reflecting on Reflective Practice’, Museum Management and Curatorship, 10/4 (1991): 403–17; S. MacLeod, ‘Making Museum Meanings: Training, Education, Research and Practice’, Museum Management and Curatorship, 19/1 (2001): 51–62.

  • MacLeod, ‘Making Museum Meanings’, 58.

  • S. Macdonald, ‘Theorising Museums: An Introduction’, in S. Macdonald and G. Fyfe (eds), Theorising Museums: Representing Identity and Diversity in a Changing World (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers/The Sociological Review, 1996), 1–18.

  • C. Saumarez-Smith, ‘Book Review: Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum’, Apollo, 159/510 (2004): 76.

  • R. Mason, ‘Cultural Theory and Museum Studies’, in S. Macdonald (ed.), A Companion to Museum Studies (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 17–32.

  • C. McCarthy, ‘Review Article: Museum Factions – the Transformation of Museum Studies’, Museum and Society, 5/3 (2007).

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  • Saumarez-Smith, C., ‘Book Review: Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum’, Apollo, 159/510 (2004): 76.
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