Curriculum & Philosophy

Throughout the program, students investigate museums and their role in broader society, furthering the museum as a catalyst for new dialogue and potential action. Skill building is balanced with real-world challenges by partnering with museums, non-profits, schools and cultural institutions. Students develop and refine skills in sketching, model-making, environmental graphic design, design research, audience research, prototyping, pilot testing, sustainable design practices, accessibility, universal design, exhibition writing, information architecture and community engagement.

Sample Curriculum:

Total Credits: 60
Duration: 2 years, full-time

Year One

Museum Exhibition Design Studio (4.5c)
Visitor Research & Evaluation (3c)
Museum Environmental Graphics (1.5c)
Architectural Drawing as a Visualizing Tool (1.5c)
Team Building (1.5c)
Elective (3c)

Year Two

Design Seminar: Concepts & Context (3c)
Museum Exhibition Design Studio (6c)
Thesis Development (3c)
Elective (3c)

Design Research & Synthesis (3c)
Museum Seminar: Museums & Society (3c)
Museum Exhibition Design Studio (6c)
Museum Lighting (1.5c)
Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD): Vectorworks (1.5c)
Exhibition Materials and Methods (1.5c)

Media for Museum Communication(3c)
Thesis (3c)
Elective (3–6c)

Museum Internship (3c)


Additional Program Components 



In addition to the coursework each semester, students are involved in a “charrette” in which they interrogate a museum issue. Grads are given 24 hours to brainstorm and innovate possible design solutions for an existing museum or institutional client and present their concepts to decision-makers in those organizations. Past charrette workshops have been conducted for the National Park Service, William Way Foundation, Design Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art and Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, and have tackled issues such as homelessness, mass incarceration, racial issues, and urban planning and interpretation. Partners for the charrette have been the public historians from Temple University, thought leaders from New York Hall of Science and Science Museum of Minnesota, as well as Elaine Heumann Gurian, James W. Volkert, Marsha Semmel, Leslie Bedford and Mark O’Neill from Glasgow Museum.


The requisite summer internship provides students with an extended opportunity to gain hands-on experience in world-renowned institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Franklin Institute, the American Museum of Natural History and Guggenheim in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, DeYoung in San Francisco, a paid fellowship at Walters Art Museum in Baltimore or the Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston, and in a wide range of smaller science museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, children’s museums, historic houses and societies. Students have also interned in design and development firms such as Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Jane Clark Chermayeff & Associates, Lee Skolnick Architecture+Design Partners and many more.

Community Engagement & Social Impact

The Spark-Fuel-Ignite! project provides the opportunity for Museum Studies students to engage in meaningful collaboration with the Franklin Institute, History Truck and high school students from the String Theory High School, Science Leadership Academy at Beeber and Hallahan High School. The initiative helps further Philadelphia’s citywide mission of building a diverse creative economy by fostering younger generations’ education, employment and creativity. By implementing design thinking, UArts grad students work with high school students, community groups and external institutions to collaboratively develop and design interpretive “pop-up” exhibits for public audiences. Located within the communities, these exhibits provide students a powerful context in which to apply concepts and principles from their course of study.

Start your application, view the complete curriculum with course descriptions on the Registrar's Course Catalogue site, or return to Museum Studies home page.

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