Introduction to Programs Week: Museum Studies (MMSt)

by Defne Inceoglu (2nd year MMSt student, 2018-2020)

When I started the Museum Studies program in September 2018, I was practically vibrating with excitement. Jumping for joy! And wow, what a journey it has been.

The one thing I learned right away was: immerse yourself in EVERYTHING. To get the most out of your experience in the MMSt program, don’t sleep on joining clubs, attending workshops, extracurricular lectures, see every exhibition and show you possibly can, email and set up informational interviews… just get right into the big world of GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives and museums!) Your life will be richer, and you will give yourself lots of context for completing assignments.

Fall 2018: At the ROM with one of my favourite pieces in their collection.

Second bit of advice for any incoming students: it can be stressful at times. There is a lot of reading and a lot of high expectations from the Faculty – Museum Studies is no exception. My thesis supervisor told me once that “most of his job was easing students’ anxiety”. Remember, your teachers are there to see you succeed, not fail you. Introduce yourself to them early on, make time to have your face known, pop into professors’ office hours, and ask questions if you’re stuck!

Jordan pictured here hanging an element of our exhibition wall for Dr. Hooley McLaughlin’s class.
Lisa and Jess hard at work. A part of our exhibition wall. Our theme was “Do Not Touch” looking at art and valdalism.

Another thing to keep in mind is to always be curious. Don’t be afraid to take on new avenues. When I started the program, I was set on going into collections management. I even did an internship during the summer of 2019 in an archive/historic house, not a museum. I wanted to keep my options open.

I had fun at my internship with Lambton House/Heritage York. Above are a few photographs: I got to repair books, create a new storage solution for a Daguerreotype, and even had time to pose outside the building. I learned that I wasn’t cut out for collections work – and that was a good thing! I’m glad I tried it out, because now I know exactly what I want out of this degree.

Visiting “The Moon: A Voyage Through Time” exhibition, at the Aga Khan Museum.

So, what have I discovered? I found out, through reading, course work, lectures and preparing my thesis, that I am destined to be in the front-end of museums. I fell in love with visitor studies! I ended up surprising myself by just trying out as much as I could. So, don’t be afraid to take classes in other areas for your electives, take a library science or archives course, test out the water!

You’re going to make lots of friends along the way! Here I am pictured with the 2018/2019 Digital Tattoo Team. I had the pleasure of working with these great people (from left to right: Monique (visiting us from UBC in Vancouver!), Elyse (2019 LIS graduate), myself, Jason (2019 UXD graduate) and Samantha (CDP in MMSt, LIS, and ARM).

Above: the Light Therapy Room at MOCA Toronto, view of Mickalene Thomas’ “Femmes Noires” at the AGO, and photo inside of the exhibition Age of You at MOCA Toronto.

Like I mentioned, visit lots of exhibitions (if you can). I know that everything is a bit unsure at the moment. The incoming 2020 cohort will be a digital one, but hopefully soon you will be in Toronto and get to experience all of the fun things this city has to offer. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to attend the great experiences I’m sure the Master of Information Student Council (MISC) and the Museum Studies Student Association (MUSSA) are cooking up for you this Fall! Consider writing for Musings, the Museum Studies student-run blog. I had a great time writing pieces for them. I had the opportunity to write posts on climate change education in museums, and this think piece on collections management. Getting to do extracurricular writing is great practice for your assignments and is a nice addition for your CV!

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I help to run this blog with Samantha Summers. We are both thrilled to get to write about the Faculty of Information. We look forward to writing about the programs, what to expect from going to the iSchool, and other areas of student life. If anyone wants to reach out to talk more about the MMSt program, please don’t hesitate to contact me at: defne.inceoglu@mail.utoronto.ca.

The Inforum during Golden Hour. I miss working in this space! All photos in this post are courtesy of Defne Inceoglu.

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