In 1974, under the supervision of the Department of Classics, San Francisco State University began offering Museology classes, one of the first universities in the country to do so. Early courses focused on the care and exhibition of the ancient Egyptian Sutro collection, with long-time Classics Department Lecturer Marian Bernstein, who also served as Curator for this important collection, and in the mid-1970s, with Dr. Kathleen Keller, who also curated the collection and later became a professor of Egyptology at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1974 to 1987, students could graduate with an emphasis in Museum Studies at the Master’s level by completing a special interdisciplinary major. 

In 1987, the Master of Arts degree program in Museum Studies was officially inaugurated and Dr. Linda Ellis was hired. Along with Marian Bernstein, who retired in 2006, Dr. Ellis taught Museum Studies courses from 1987 to 2014, when she also retired. Early graduates of M.A. degree include Nancy Ely, Herby Hoi-Pun Lam, Nancy Mattingly, Ruth Bolotin, Jill Evenson, Julie Franklin, and Jovanne Reilly. In 2002, the Program became an independent unit within the (then) College of Humanities, with the hiring of Dr. Edward M. Luby, who came from the University of California, Berkeley. The curriculum was expanded in areas such as cultural property and museum management. Dr. Luby became director in 2011.  

From 2002 to 2011, faculty associated with Museum Studies included Dr. Yun Shun Susie Chung, who taught in the area of the public dimensions of museum from 2007 to 2008; Andrew Fox, webmaster for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; and Christopher Clark, now communications team manager for the College of Liberal and Creative Arts at SF State, with the latter two teaching courses in the area of information technology in museums. 

More recently, Christine Fogarty, a credentialed teacher, taught courses in museum education and volunteer management, and served as Program Coordinator for Museum Studies from 2000 to 2015. Julie Franklin, a Registrar at the Magnes Collection for Jewish Culture and Life at UC Berkeley, taught in the areas of collections management and museum management. The late Dr. Jean DeMouthe, a senior collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, taught courses in collections care.

Faculty teaching recently in curation, exhibit planning, and design have included Nancy Arms-Simon, an exhibits registrar at SFMOMA, and Fran Osborne, who is affiliated with the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at SF State. Dr. Victoria Lyall, formerly Associate Curator for Art of the Ancient Americas at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, joined Museum Studies for two years and taught in in curation, exhibition planning, and digital preservation, before leaving in 2016 to join the Denver Art Museum as Curator for the Ancient Americas.

Today, Paige Bardolph, former Associate Curator at the Autry Museum of the American West, and Director of the Global Museum at SF State, teaches History and Organization of Museums, and Museum Exhibition Planning and Design; Karen Kienzle, Director of the Palo Alto Art Center, teaches Fundraising in Museums, and Museum Audiences, Visitors, and Communities; Julie Bly DeVere, Head Curator and Collections Manager at Filoli Historic Estate & Gardens, teaches Museum Collections Management and Registration; Bianca Alper, Visual Resource Specialist at the J. Paul Leonard Library at SF State and former Curatorial Assistant in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Department at the de Young Museum, teaches Museum Curatorship; and Dr. Lissette Jimenez, formerly Associate Curator at the Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, teaches the minor courses Introduction to Museums and Introduction to Museum Exhibits, and the elective Museum Education Methods and Community Engagement.

In 2012, Museum Studies was designated a Distinctive, High-Quality Program by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). As a result, Museum Studies participates in the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), a program supports tuition reciprocity to non-California applicants who reside in the 15 westernmost states.

In 2013, under the leadership of Professor Luby and Professor Gail Dawson, from the then-Department of Art, an administrative partnership between Museum Studies and the Department of Art was created to develop additional opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. The alignment resulted in the formation of new unit called the “School of Art.” As part of the alignment, Museum Studies kept its separate M.A. degree, its interdisciplinary emphasis, and its independence in curriculum. Current staff supporting Museum Studies include Lori Schafer and Barbara Eaton.   

In 2014, the program worked to create a new museum on campus, The Global Museum, in order to integrate the professional skill set of the faculty, staff and students in Museum Studies into its activities, to care for selected campus collections, and to serve as a place of discussion on the globally connectivity of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.

In Fall 2016, the program introduced a new undergraduate minor in Museum Studies, with courses ranging from museum history and organization to education, exhibitions, and acquiring practical experience. 

Professor Luby was Director and Chief Curator of the Global Museum from 2014 to 2018, where he worked to manage the museum through it’s “start-up” phase, including the creation of temporary storage spaces and the movement of virtually all the Museum’s collections; the development of the Museum’s new gallery, preservation facility, classroom, and Student Study Center; and oversight for the Museum’s inaugural exhibit, which opened in April 2018. 

Today, Professor Luby remains Chief Curator in the Global Museum and works closely with The Global Museum’s new Director, Paige Bardolph, to integrate Museum Studies curriculum with the activities of the Global Museum. Along with Professor Luby and Director Bardolph, Associate Director of the Global Museum, Christine Fogarty, and Museum Registrar, Gina Caprari, work closely with undergraduate and graduate students through Museum Studies lab courses, practicums, internships, and classes in project management.

Finally, the Museum Studies Program is affiliated with active student and alumni groups. 

In 2005, graduate students established the Museum Studies Student Association (MSSA), a student group formally recognized by SF State, with founding officers Justin Collins and Ashley (Kircher) Oliphant. Today, MSSA continues to provide important extracurricular activity, outreach and networking roles for all active Museum Studies students, including orientation and mentoring to support new incoming admits to the Program.

In 2012, the Museum Studies Program formed an alumni group called MSSIG, the Museum Studies Special Interest Group. Founding Board Members included Maureen Bourbin, Marcess Owings, Cynthia (Drennan) de Bos, and Heather (Mellon) Hurley. Over the years, Paige Bardolph, Karlie Drutz, and Stefanie (Midlock) Pierson joined the Board. MSSIG exists to support and advocate for the Museum Studies Program; to connect alumni in the museum community-at-large; to assist students and new graduates concerning internships and career opportunities; and to serve as mentors. Today, leadership of MSSIG include Chair Alyson Ferrari and Vice Chair Elizabeth Post Musgrove, with Board Members Demetri Broxton, Justin Collins, Emma James, Meghan Kroning, Melinda McCrary, Lindsay Palaima, and Emily Winslow.

Do you have information to share on the history of Museum Studies? Would you like to be involved with the alumni group, MSSIG?  Please share with us!