New graduate program seeks to diversify heritage studies

The program partners with the Minnesota Historical Society to provide students with hands-on internship opportunities.

Melanie A. Adams from the Minnesota Historical Society talks with students who are part of a new interdisciplinary graduate program at Northrop Auditorium on East Bank on Monday, Sept. 25.

Courtney Deutz

Melanie A. Adams from the Minnesota Historical Society talks with students who are part of a new interdisciplinary graduate program at Northrop Auditorium on East Bank on Monday, Sept. 25.

Jonathan Du

A new University of Minnesota graduate program aims to make museums more representative by educating students about inclusivity.

Through the College of Design and College of Liberal Arts’ Masters in Heritage Studies and Public History, graduate students will complete diversity-focused courses and internships to prepare them for careers like policy planning and museum work.

“If you look at the surveying that’s been done in history museums and archaeological firms and the public history field in large … there is not enough of diversity. These fields are predominantly white,” said Kevin Murphy, a history professor who helped organize the program.

Students can choose one of three tracks within the 2-year degree: historic preservation, archaeological heritage or public history. The classes focus on archival research, constructing historical projects and using digital technologies to learn about the past, Murphy said.

A partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society also means students can gain hands-on experience through internships at MHS as well as a number of smaller museums and community organizations.

“They want a group of creative workers … thinking about certain perspectives that oftentimes are not prioritized,” Murphy said of the partner organizations.

One of the program’s major goals is moving beyond the dominant culture in the U.S. and using historical information to “add to contemporary conversations around social issues,” said Chris Taylor, program co-organizer and director of inclusion and community engagement at MHS.

Additionally, some scholars, like University professor and program co-organizer Katherine Hayes, hope the program will encourage a more diverse group of scholars to pursue heritage studies.

“We’re trying to facilitate access for people to get into this field who otherwise would choose not to go into the heritage field, and that’s deeply satisfying,” Hayes said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified who offers the new program. The College of Design and the College of Liberal Arts offer the program together.