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Interdisciplinary museum minor to fill professional niche

By Jennifer Fu     4/18/17 9:57pm

New academic opportunities are underway for next year with the introduction of the Museums and Cultural Heritage minor.

This interdisciplinary minor includes courses in film, anthropology, art history and archeology, along with a core required class, museums and heritage (ANTH 341). The minor was approved by the Faculty Senate at their March 29th meeting.

Co-director of the minor and art history professor John Hopkins cited the growing destruction of artistic materials in Syria, Cambodia and other countries as a factor in conceiving the minor. Hopkins said a growing focus on archival, museological and digital preservation of heritage has driven greater student and faculty interest.

“It seemed important to provide a home for that kind of study, a place for Rice students to become a part of that conversation,” Hopkins said.

Along with Rice’s strategic position in the middle of the museum district and Houston’s exemplary resources in museum practice and cultural heritage, Hopkins and co-director Kerry Ward said they believed it was time Rice provided a venue for museum scholarship.

“Our hopes for the minor are simple: that students will see vastly increased intellectual and career opportunities at Rice and in local, national and international museums and cultural heritage institutions,” Hopkins said. “The minor provides students with a rigorous academic foundation before helping place them at local institutions, creating a cohesive classroom-to-experiential education program.”

Jackson Stiles, an earth science major, said he hopes the minor will encompass natural science museums as well as the traditional fine arts.

“The administration needs to realize that collaboration between departments to fill more niches is a good way to encourage engagement in those departments,” Stiles, a Duncan College freshman, said.

Lovett College sophomore Bryce Deskins, an art history and classical studies double major, said he has been looking forward to the minor for two years.

“I think the new minor addresses really important issues,” Deskins said. “Objects have such diverse histories, and representing all of these histories can be difficult if not impossible, so what histories do we choose to exhibit, and why?”

Deskins said that he thinks the interdisciplinary nature of the mature will allow students to incorporate more easily into their academic schedules.

“It’s great because there are so many different departments that this minor takes from, so odds are it fulfills some other requirement,” Deskins said.

Hopkins said that the minor will add to Rice’s museum and cultural heritage initiative.

“I hope that this is the first, important step toward building a larger program that will make Rice a key player in the world of heritage and museum study and scholarship,” Hopkins said.

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