Museology, Anthropology 470

Museology Overview

Whatcom Museum, a stately red brick building with three towers, built in 1892.

Anthropology 470 is designed to expose students to the workings and issues of museums through "hands-on" experience, readings, and written work.

Students will participate in day to day interactions in the working environment of a museum. In addition to acquiring or building on specific skills (e.g. data entry, research, educational presentations, etc.), students will complete tasks in a timely, satisfactory manner and successfully work with supervisors and co-workers. Students will consider and reflect on museum issues by completing written assignments (or, for repeating interns, by writing a paper on a museum topic). Students will also be asked to write about their internship experiences at the end of their interning quarter.

About the Course

Anthropology 470, Museology Studies, combines an internship program in a local museum with academic requirements set by the sponsoring professor. Students must have 40 credits in anthropology or be of Graduate status to register for Anth 470. Anyone not meeting these prerequisites must obtain permission.

How do I sign up?

FIRST STEP: Pick a Museum

The museums we currently have agreements with are listed below. At a student's initiative and with a sponsoring professor's permission, it is also possible to intern at other museums outside of Whatcom County.

Click here for Internship Descriptions

Click on the following links to visit their websites and get more information.

SECOND STEP: Contact museum personnel

Contact information can be found at the bottom of every museum internship description. You must call the appropriate contact at the museum to find out if there are any positions available.

THIRD STEP: Get your security check from the Museum

Once you have verbal approval from museum personnel then you will need to get your security clearance. This process can take a couple of weeks, and is required before you can register for the class.

FOURTH STEP: Fill out the Internship Contract

You will need to do this WITH museum personnel as it includes scheduling the interns working hours and the duties that will be required.

FIFTH STEP: Contact your professor for an override code:

Judith Pine

Notes about Anthropology 470

Anth 470 may be repeated (with new reading/writing content in subsequent quarters) and taken for up to 10 credits. Repeating the course allows students the opportunity to broaden and/or deepen their museum experiences. It is possible to change departments or museums or to continue working in the same museum/department with the possibility of greater challenges.

While students may (with the approval of supervisory museum personnel) opt for as few as 3 credits a quarter, most supervisors prefer that students take 4 or 5 credits a quarter. Students should carefully consider their schedules for any quarter they intend to take Anthropology 470 since sustained periods at a museum are needed, as well as transportation time to get to and from a museum.

3 credits = 54 hours of museum work plus assigned reading and writing assignments
4 credits = 72 hours of museum work plus assigned reading and writing assignments
5 credits = 90 hours of museum work plus assigned reading and writing assignments

The university expectation is that for every one credit earned, two hours of related work is expected outside of classroom time. The work load for Anthropology 470 reverses this formula. That is, a little less than two hours per credit (e.g. 9 hours a week for 5 credits) is expected in the museum setting. The remaining study time (which averages about 3 hours a week) will be devoted to reading and writing assignments.

Details to know

Each museum setting offers different experiences. Students wishing to work at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art are asked to choose a particular department, with a back-up department in mind. The Lynden Pioneer Museum has a variety of projects at any time. Opportunities also vary at the other museums, based on current exhibits, activities, and projects.

Students must call or visit the appropriate contact person of a museum at least three weeks in advance of the quarter they wish to intern. Internships fill on a first come, first served basis, and many museums take interns from other university departments as well from Anthropology. In addition, museums require security clearance for interns, which could take up to six weeks to process.

As discussed earlier, students must have verbal approval from museum personnel in order to obtain an override code and to register for 470.

Museums are under no obligation to accept a student. Additionally, a student's working relationship with a museum may be terminated if a student fails to perform competently and responsibly. A grade of Z would then be assigned. Students need to be aware that museums operate under deadlines and students responsibilities must be completed accordingly.

Either before the internship quarter or during the first week of the interning quarter, students must meet with their supervisors and work out agreements on schedules and duties. A copy of the Anthropology 470 contract must be completed with signatures of the student, the supervisor and the sponsoring professor. All parties receive a copy of the contract, and any changes made to the contract during the interning quarter must be signed by all three.

Museums are working environments and interns are expected to perform duties assigned by museum personnel that are appropriate to the museum's current work. While students may, in some cases, express preferences, task assignment is ultimately each museum's prerogative.

  • A student can expect to perform at least three different kinds of tasks during a quarter (many students get to do more).
  • Each student is entitled to a tour of his/her chosen museum with accompanying remarks about the integration of different areas, units, etc. In addition, students may be able to schedule time to experience museum programs as part of their internship.
  • Students are not expected to do museum work during FINALS WEEK. However, if hours need to be made up for time missed during the quarter (due to illness, etc.), hours can be completed during FINALS WEEK.

90% of a student's final grade is based on the work done in a museum. Ordinarily, museum hours are completed by the end of the last week of classes. In extenuating circumstances, museum hours can be completed by Wednesday of Finals Week with permission of the museum supervisor. However, if more time is needed to complete hours, the student must make arrangements with the museum supervisor and notify the supervising faculty member no later than the beginning of Finals Week to secure an incomplete for the quarter and make arrangements for completion. Students may ask museum personnel for a copy of the evaluation form sent to the supervising faculty member after the completion of their museum work but no later than one month after completion. 

10% of the final grade is based on written work submitted to the sponsoring professor. ALL FIRST TIME INTERNS MUST COMPLETE THE CANVAS COMPONENT OF THE COURSE. Once students are registered for Anthropology 470 they will automatically be linked to Anthropology 470 on Canvas.

Students are encouraged to ask supervisors for letters of recommendation for their portfolios if the skills they acquire and the responsibilities they undertake are deemed significant for their future endeavors.

Required Texts for the Course

First Time Interns:

  • Museum Basics by Timothy Ambrose and Crispin Paine. 2018. 4th edition

Second and Third Time Interns will find several books on reserve from which they may draw for their papers. These will include, but are not limited to:

  • Exhibiting Cultures edited by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine
  • Museum Frictions edited by Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja and Tomas Ybarra-Frausto
  • Transforming Museums in the 21st Century by Graham Black
  • Reflections of a culture broker: a view from the Smithsonian by Richard Kurin
  • Written Work

Course Assignments

First Time Interns:

  • Weekly reading assignments and essay questions for first time interns will be posted on Canvas. Beginning the first week of the quarter, answers are to be submitted by midnight on Friday of each week. During Fall Quarter, there is no assignment the week of Thanksgiving. Other announcements pertinent to interns may also appear on Canvas.
  • A three page paper that summarizes a student's internship experiences and offers reflections and insights is required by noon Wednesday of Finals Week.

Second and Third Time Interns:

  • Students will also write a three page experience/reflections paper that is due by noon Wednesday of Finals Week. In addition, they will read essays of their choice from books such as Exhibiting Cultures, Museum Frictions, and Transforming Museums in the 21st Century (on reserve) and write a 3200-4000 word paper (up to 5000 words is OK) on a museum topic that draws upon at least three essays. Supplemental readings may also be used for this paper. For example, an exploration of the subject of authenticity in exhibiting might be chosen. The paper could draw from ideas of authors in Exhibiting Cultures which addresses the topic of authenticity. Ideas on the topic from other sources and a student's own thoughts on the topic, informed by lessons learned as an intern, could supplement ideas from the essays. The paper is due by noon on Friday of the FIFTH WEEK of classes.
  • The University of Chicago formatting style is encouraged. Other formats are allowed but there must be consistency in the use of any given format.
  • Please include the word count at the end of the text of your paper. Your bibliography is not to be included in the required word count.