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Columbia University Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :24 Feb 
International :24 Feb 

MA Museum Anthropology

 Course Level
Masters / PG
Full Time

2 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

27180 USD
27180 USD

Application fee

International 105 USD
National 105 USD
Institute for Research in African-American Studies
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7.5
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
GRE (avg)315

World University Ranking

About this course

The M.A. in Museum Anthropology, offered jointly by the Columbia Department of Anthropology and the American Museum of Natural History, is a professional degree for those already employed in or interested in moving into the museum field. This program combines the strengths of a premier academic department of anthropology and an innovative department of museum anthropology whose collections and archives span the history and geographic range of the discipline. Students learn the practical skills entailed in working in museums and develop the strong theoretical perspective essential to those who are using material culture to express ideas through visual display. The program prepares students to interpret ethnographic and archaeological collections to the general public, work in registration or collections management, and become scientific, educational or research staff for a range of museums, from small local museums with historical or scientific orientations that require generalists, to larger institutions where staff hold more specialized museums.

In the Columbia/AMNH program, "Museum Anthropology" refers to the critical study of museums from an anthropological perspective, including their history and changing role in contemporary society. Museums, while always significant, have become perhaps the major institution of national legitimization, especially for emerging or non-Western states. The project of museum anthropology also includes a perspective on the meaning of placing people or objects on display and whose authority is interposed between these objects and viewers.

Students in the MA Program explore new approaches to museum practice in existing museums, and in new museums in post-colonial settings. The study of museums connects to issues of heritage and repatriation and adds additional depth and complexity to the significance of objects and their histories. Students have a unique opportunity to engage with these issues in an intellectually stimulating anthropology program and in dialogue with museum professionals who have deep experience exploring these questions in the creation of innovative public exhibits. The program also requires students to devise and install a professional public museum exhibition each year.

Our graduates have obtained positions in a range of museums-- the American Museum of Natural History, the Bennington Museum, the Chester County Historical Society, the Denver Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Tenement Museum in NYC, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and many others around the world.

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Eligibility Criteria

The admission standards and selection procedures are identical to those followed by the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences for all of its M.A. Programs (with the exception of the Liberal Studies Program). Applicants must provide a 10-15 page writing sample, three (3) letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with their academic work and history, and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

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Course Modules

The program consists of 30 points of graduate course work, two intensive internships, and a thesis project. 18 of the 30 credits must be taken in Anthropology. The remaining 12 credits may be taken in other relevant departments, but each student works out a unique program suited to his/her interests, in consultation with their advisor(s).

Core Requirements - Program requires 30 credits

1. Core courses

  • GR6352 Museum Anthropology: History and Theory. Fall term. 3 credits
  • GR6353 Exhibiting Cultures: Politics and Practices of Museum Exhibitions. Spring term, 3 credits
  • GR6192 Exhibiting Cultures: Practical Considerations. Spring term, 3 credits
  • GU4201 Principles of Socio-cultural Anthropology (for those without an Anthropology background). Fall term, 3 credits

2. Intensive internships
Spring and Summer terms (or by arrangement), (Total 6 credits: 6 at one museum, or two 3-credit internships at different museums or related facilities.
Among the museums at which internships may be conducted include, for example, the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Museo del Barrio, the Museum for African Art, the Museum of Chinese in America, the Museum of the City of New York, the National Museum of the American Indian, New-York Historical Society, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and others.

3. Additional elective courses (from Anthropology and other departments)

4. Thesis

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How to Apply

All prospective students must apply using the online application. Printed applications are not available.

You must specify in your application the department, doctoral program subcommittee, or free-standing master’s degree program in which you wish to study. If required, you must indicate the sub-field of study and the term for which you are applying. A complete application includes:

  • transcripts of all previous post-secondary education
  • a statement of academic purpose
  • a curriculum vitae or résumé
  • three letters of recommendation from academic sources
  • GRE scores and, if applicable, results of the TOEFL or IELTS examination to fulfill the English Proficiency Requirement
  • a sample of scholarly writing, if required by the department or program
  • payment of the application fee

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