Cooperstown Graduate Program

general museum coursework

The CGP curriculum includes a core series of required museum classes covering education, administration, exhibition, and the field as a whole. A variety of electives are offered for students who wish to learn more on a specific subject.

required classes

Introduction to Museums: Purpose, Function and History
HMUS 500 (3 credits)
Instructor: Gretchen S. Sorin
Introduction to Museums will provide students with an overview of the purpose, function, and history of museums and their role in society. Students will be introduced to all of the disciplines within the museum and will discuss recent issues in the field. The course also includes an introduction to the assessment tools used by the profession for self-evaluation. A group project, a research project, two class presentations and field trips are required in this course. Students are expected to complete weekly readings and to participate in class discussions.
Fall, required first semester.


Professional Seminar
HMUS 510 (1 credit per semester)
Instructors: Gretchen S. Sorin and Guest Lecturers
Each semester, CGP brings in a group of colleagues to lecture and teach on a variety of subjects of interest to museum professionals. These scholars have distinguished themselves through years of experience, professional service and/or advanced study in a particular subject. The seminars are scheduled according to the availability of guest faculty, generally on Fridays. The Professional Seminar may also include special conferences, events, activities, seminars, or workshops that are of significant or timely interest to the CGP community.
Fall and Spring, required each semester.


Introduction to Museum Education
HMUS 503 (3 credits)
Instructor: Garet Livermore
Public Education is at the core of the service that museums provide. This course focuses on all aspects of the educational role of museums from the mission and decision-making process through an exploration of museum learning, the development of public programs, and evaluation.
Spring, required second semester.


Museum Project Management
HMUS 515 (1 credit)
Instructor: Faculty
An experiential introduction to project management concepts
and skills applied in a museum setting as students plan and conduct the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Interview Weekend. Topics include planning, monitoring, budgeting, personnel assignment, delegation,
accountability, implementation, and evaluation. Operational
planning tools will be applied to special events, exhibits, and
major CGP projects.
Spring, required second semester.


Internship I
HMUS 580 (1 credit)
Instructor: Gretchen S. Sorin
Regular-track students are required to complete an internship of at least eight weeks in a museum or related organization during the summer between their first and second years in residence. Interns undertake and complete a special project approved by the host museum and the Program, and make periodic reports on their experience. Students are responsible for finding their own internships, although the Program assists by informing them about opportunities. The Program reserves the right to reject any student-arranged internship. The overall internship program is coordinated by the Program, but individual interns are supervised by museum professionals at the host institution. Internships are funded 100% by the host institution, which should pay the student $1,200–$l,600 per month for full-time work or approximately $8.00–$10.00 per hour depending on the economy and cost of living in a given area. Students pay tuition for the internship at the rate of one (1) semester hour.
Summer, required.


Museum Administration
HMUS 502 (3 credits)
Instructor: Brian Alexander
This course will provide students with an overview of management history, theory, and practice focusing on the issues involved in managing a non-profit organization. Topics to be covered include planning, ethics and governance, membership, earned income and marketing, and non-profit finance. Students
will complete a finance assignment and an in-depth museum management case study.
Fall, required third semester.


Museum Exhibition
HMUS 505 (4 credits)
Instructor: Gretchen S. Sorin
Museum exhibition requires students to apply their mastery of museum education, American material culture, and American history to creative visual presentation. This course will focus on the development of interpretive museum exhibitions including theory, planning, methodology, design, construction, and installation. Students will work individually on a label writing workbook and work as a member of an exhibition team to produce an interpretive exhibition or exhibition plan.
Spring, required fourth semester.


Thesis or Special Project: Research
HMUS 698 (3 credits)
Instructors: Gretchen Sorin, Cynthia Falk, Will Walker, Brian
Alexander, and Wendell Tripp
Students will complete a Thesis or Project based on original research. The suggested length of the thesis is fifty pages, exclusive of illustrations, appendixes, bibliography, etc. Projects involve a similar amount of research, but result in a different end product, such as an exhibition script or an interpretive program. Students choose an area of interest by the beginning of their second semester. For HMUS 698, students narrow the area of interest into a thesis topic; write a draft proposal; conduct a major portion of their research; and, by the end of the semester, submit a final proposal, chapter summary or outline, and a working bibliography.
Fall or Spring, required.


Thesis or Special Project: Writing
HMUS 699 (3 credits)
Instructors: Gretchen Sorin, Cynthia Falk, Will Walker, Brian Alexander, and Wendell Tripp
Students continue to work on their thesis or project, submitting a first draft early in the semester and a completed thesis by the end.
Fall or Spring, required.

elective classes

Applied Museum Education
HMUS 504 (3 credits)
Instructor: Katie Boardman and Guest Lecturers
This course is intended to give supervised practical experience to students who wish to pursue a career in museum education. They will spend several days working in area schools and develop two education programs.
Fall elective, third semester.


Strategic Planning and Development
HMUS 506 (3 credits)
Instructor: Brian Alexander
This course will focus on those planning and development processes required in non-profit leadership positions. Students will learn both theory and methods of strategic planning. The development or fundraising portion of the course will address all levels of fundraising from membership and the annual fund to capital and endowment campaigns.
Spring elective.


Museum Marketing
HMUS 540 (1 credit)
Instructor: Steve Gadomski
Museums compete with everything from big box stores to the Internet for the public’s time, attention, and dollars. This course will examine why it’s both true and dangerous to believe that a museum’s best prospects are the ones that most resemble its current patrons and supporters. Students will learn how to stretch the marketing envelope while comparing why marketing methods that work for one institution might fail for another. In addition to building a plan for expanding membership, patronage, and support, each student will study how to weigh the value of marketing tools such as conventional advertising, snail mail, electronic magazines, e-mails, and
Internet sites such as YouTube, MySpace, and others.
Spring elective.


Boards and Governance I
HMUS 542 (1 credit)
Instructor: Brian Alexander
More than any other factors, board structure, diversity, ethics, philosophies, and practices determine an organizationís vision, mission, and success. After outlining the most desirable attributes of a board, students will examine case studies to determine how well the board functioned, the intended vs. actual impact of its leadership, and how the outcome might have been different if these factors had varied. Team reports will be given on each case study accompanied by a final paper reflecting on what will be asked of boards in the near future.
Spring elective.


Grant Writing
HMUS 544 (1 credit)
Instructor: Brian Alexander
Effective grant writing is an important aspect of a museum’s development program. Readings and discussions in the course will focus on government, corporate, foundation, and private funding as primary grant sources. Students will choose one of the four sectors and develop a paper on the requirements and opportunities within. The grant writing process will be explored to determine roles and responsibilities of the museum board, executive director, staff, and grant writer.


Museum Leadership
HMUS 545 (1 credit)
Instructor: Brian Alexander
Regardless of our role or responsibility as museum professionals, we will be called upon to follow and to lead coworkers, volunteers, and others. This course will examine leadership roles, styles, strengths, and weaknesses that are likely to be found in museums and not-for-profit organizations. By means
of case study, students will explore why it is essential for each of us to know our personal leadership strengths and weaknesses, and to be able to recognize the styles of others if you intend to succeed in ever-changing situations and organizations.
Fall elective.


The Visitor Experience
HMUS 546 (1 credit)
Instructor: Katie Boardman
The Visitor Experience – if we are to expect the public to visit, learn from and support our museum, historic house, or educational institution, we must work to understand who “they” are, and how we can best serve their interests while supporting our mission. Thanks to the flourishing use of technology by
museum marketing, admissions, and membership professionals, we have the ability to learn more than ever about those who patronize our institutions…and those who don’t. By examining a variety of audience assessment tools ranging from surveys and interviews, to the use of geographic information system (GIS) technology, this course will engage students in the art and science of visitor studies and the visitor experience with the intent that they come away with the appreciation of how important it is to identify, serve, and expand our customer base.
Fall elective.


Museum Finance
HMUS 547 (1 credit)
Instructor: Brian Alexander
Understanding sound financial tools and methods of a museum enables staff to appreciate both the daily operations and the long term planning of the organization. By combining those fiscal tools with discussions on the roles of the finance committee, executive director, and staff, this course will provide
a functional perspective on museum fiscal management and reporting. Topics to be covered include creating an annual budget, capital project funding, restricted vs. unrestricted funds, and reporting requirements. Students will examine actual operational budgets long term financing structures and develop similar tools.
Fall elective.


Topics in Museum Studies
HMUS 550 (1-3 credits)
Instructor: Faculty
Three or more students may petition for a course pertinent to the Program ’s fields of study and not offered regularly. The course will be given only if a faculty member is willing and competent to teach it.
Fall or Spring elective.


Independent Study: Museum Studies
HMUS 551 (1-3 credits)
Instructor: Faculty
Students may take up to three hours of Independent Study per semester. Students must design the study in consultation with the appropriate faculty member and complete an Application for Independent Study form and have it signed by the instructor before registering for the course. Each credit hour requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments.
Fall or Spring elective.


Internship II
HMUS 581 (1-3 credits)
Instructor: Gretchen S. Sorin
Internship II is an elective which offers students additional practical experience working at NYSHA, The Farmers’ Museum, or another local institution. Students establish these internships in consultation with the Program Director and the host institution. They may be paid or unpaid. They
require fifteen hours of supervised work and thirty hours of additional work for each semester hour.
Fall or Spring elective.


Back to main coursework page


First years at a group meeting.

A 2010 museum exhibition project



Professor Garet Livermore helps leads students in traditional Shaker dancing during a field trip to Hancock Shaker Village.



Patrick Dickerson ('14) learns how to sew for a class project.


Conny Graft leads a Museum Education class on evaluation in museums.



Jenna Robinson ('13) prepares an exhibit for mounting for her class exhibit during Interview Weekend.


Garet Livermore works with the Class of 2014 on an Museum Education Project.


Jessica Mayercin and Haley Gard (both '13) work on creating a white model for their exhibition project.


Emily Lang ('13) conducts research for a class project at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

sugaring off

Drew Ulrich and Britney Schline (both '14) volunteer during a museum program at the Farmers' Museum as part of the Introduction to Museum Education course.


Dr. Falk uses the stadium exhibition at the Baseball Hall of Fame during an American Material Culture II class.


Chelsea Robertson ('13) presents her ideas for an exhibition for the Boyce Thompson Institute during Museum Exhibition.