Our History

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, Ely, 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, faculty teaching in exhibit planning and design have included Nancy Arms-Simon, a registrar at SFMOMA; Fran Osborne, who is affiliated with the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at SF State; and Christine Fogarty, a credentialed teacher who taught courses in museum education and volunteer management, and program coordinator for Museum Studies from 2000 to 2015.

Today, Dr. Jean DeMouthe, a senior collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, teaches courses in collections care; Karen Kienzle, director of the Palo Alto Art Center, teaches courses in fundraising, museum management and audience development; and Julie Franklin, a registrar at the Magnes Collection for Jewish Culture and Life at UC Berkeley, teaches in the areas of collections management and museum management.

In 2013, under the leadership of Professor Gail Dawson, from the then-Department of Art, and Professor Luby, from Museum Studies, created an administrative partnership between the two units 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 Elizabeth Post Musgrove and Lori Schafer. 

In Fall, 2014, Dr. Victoria Lyall, formerly associate curator for art of the Ancient Americas at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), joined Museum Studies to teach in digital preservation, curation and exhibition planning and design. Also 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 serve as a place of discussion on the globally connectivity of San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. The Global Museum’s new gallery is planned to open in the Fine Arts Building in late 2017.

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.    

Do you have information to share on the history of Museum Studies? Please share with us!