Museum & Exhibition Studies Graduate Program Overview

An interdisciplinary program with a social justice focus.

The University of Illinois at Chicago offers a Master of Arts in Museum and Exhibition Studies.

Museum and Exhibition Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago puts social justice at the heart of our work and scholarship. If you are interested in learning more about how our students are redefining cultural work for the 21st Century, please feel free to join us at an upcoming info session.



Fall 2024 Info Sessions - Oct. 14 and Nov. 12, 5:30 - 6:30 PM. Email for the link.

Full-time resident students take five core courses that focus on exhibition-making, collections, writing for exhibitions, strategies for public engagement, and museum genres and histories; two capstone research courses; five elective courses; and complete a capstone (thesis or project) during the two-year program. Students may also elect to register for a supervised internship as an elective option.

MUSE uses Chicago’s many museums and cultural spaces as classrooms. The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and Gallery 400 serve as the support in-depth research and practice opportunities on campus.

Apply here!

Degree Requirements

In addition to the Graduate College minimum requirements, students must meet the following program requirements:

  • Credit Hours Required to Graduate: 48
  • Required Courses: MUSE 532, 542, 543, 544, 545 (total of 20 hours)
  • Elective Courses: 20 hours, chosen in consultation with a faculty adviser.
  • Comprehensive Examination Not required.
Thesis or Project Options - students may choose one of the following: 
  • Thesis: Must take at least 8 hours in thesis research ( MUSE 598). No more than 8 hours of MUSE 598 can be applied toward the degree.
  • Project: Must take at least 8 hours of project (MUSE 597). No more than 8 hours of MUSE 597 can be applied toward the degree.
Required Course Descriptions:
MUSE 532 Collections
4 hours. Practical, theoretical and institutional goals and practices related to collections. Students meet in seminar, read and discuss core texts and ideas; travel to representative exhibition and cultural heritage sites. Extensive computer use required. Prerequisite(s): Approval of the department.

MUSE 542: Exhibition Practices
4 hours. Core course in material and display practices. Exposure to the mechanics of preparing exhibitions in physical and virtual environment; exhibition planning, design, management and marketing. Prerequisite(s): Approval of the department.

MUSE 543 Writing for Exhibitions
4 hours. Practicum in producing texts for sites across physical and virtual museum and exhibition environments, from labels to exhibition catalogs. Includes digital and virtual exhibition venues. Extensive computer use required. Prerequisite(s): Approval of the department.

MUSE 544 Public Engagement in Museums and Exhibitions
4 hours. Development of methods of audience and public interaction with exhibiting institutions and forms. Includes practicum in publicity, promotion, audience-development assessment. Prerequisite(s): Approval of the department.

MUSE 545 Museum Genres, Practices and Institutions
4 hours. History of museums, cultural heritage sites, other sites of preservation and exhibition; includes discussion of contemporary sites of virtual display. Field trips to multiple cultural sites in Chicago area. Extensive computer use required. Field work required. Prerequisite(s): Approval of the department.


MUSE 597 Project Research and Implementation
0 to 8 Hours. Capstone project appropriate to area of study, developed in consultation with graduate advisor. Projects may cover areas of visual exhibition, or professional practice that fall outside traditional boundaries of scholarly research: website design; organizational management projects; festivals; collaborations arranged among different institutions, and the like. May be repeated to a maximum of 8 hours. Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading only. Prerequisite(s): Approval of the department.

MUSE 598 Master’s Thesis Research
0 TO 8 hours. Individual research under faculty direction. Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading only. May be repeated to a maximum of 8 hours. Prerequisite(s): Consent of the instructor.


Apply here!

Capstone and Internships

Specific capstone projects will be the result of the student’s course of training, interest, and experience. Possibilities include:

  • develop and mount an exhibition at the site of internship or other appropriate venue
  • assemble and edit a published (or web-site located) catalog to an exhibition or collection
  • produce a portfolio of professional critical writing appropriate to an art journal or other art criticism venue
  • develop a website for an existing "bricks-and-mortar" institution
  • adapt an existing database software engine to track all aspects of an exhibition’s progress- location of artworks, insurance value, shipping methods, agreements with lenders, specifications for exhibition, previous exhibition histories for exhibition objects, and more.
  • craft a business model for serving as an artist’s agent using new media and presentation forms.

The goal of capstone activities is threefold: to synthesize the student’s program of learning; to move from novice to professional status; and to provide a sample of work immediately useful in the search for post-graduate employment.

Internships can be completed during the academic year or summer, and will be coordinated with faculty and advisors. In Chicago, students have interned at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Graham Foundation, and other institutions. Internships may also be coordinated in other cities and countries.

Sample Capstone Projects and Theses

Below you will find a sample of capstone projects and theses completed by MUSE students in recent years.


Demecina Beehn (2015) - Engaging Detroit - The Detroit Institute of Arts and the African American Community

Jillian Green (2015) - Multi-Million Dollar Museum and a Declining Visitorship

Matthew Heichelbech (2015) - Institutionalized Community Archives: Understanding a Community's Relationship with Its Collected History

Jamie Lewis (2015) - Reinterpreting Ethnographic Collections: Online Community Curation of the Philippine Collection at The Field Museum
Brianna Thiel (2015) - Otto Dix: Bodily Negotiations of Trauma in Weimar Germany
Stephanie Reynolds (2014) - Pat Passlof: In Her Own Words
Meghan Wingert (2014) - Learning Through the Collection for The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University: An Exercise in Teaching Across Curriculum
Important Forms and Documents for Current MUSE Students


Current students can find forms and documents related to capstone requirements and deadlines, internship requirements, and requests for travel and research funding here.