Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cultural Heritage and Grad School: Guide and Gush

This next year will be my last at Bennington, which is simultaneously the happiest thing ever and the most disconcerting. I’ve basically been in college for the last six years; I started attending community college in high school, spent two years at another community college outside of Washington, D.C., and have spent three years at Bennington because not all of my credits transferred. Being so close to the end after years of feeling like it would never ever get here is dizzying. However, my complete denial that there’s a world out there where I cannot work whenever during the day I want to, wearing whatever I want to, while eating frozen burritos throughout is nicely complemented by the fact that if I want a good job in this field, I have to go back to school anyway. So even though it’s over, it’s not really over, and presently I’m grateful.

Of course, all this life thinking has been accompanied by whole days spent researching graduate programs in cultural heritage studies. For your condensed research pleasure, I’m doing two things with all this information: 1) giving you the highlights and the reviews on my fave programs in a series of blog posts, and listing all the other programs in a page, like the About section, as a resource for YOU, needy college student/educator. When I’m done, you’ll have realized you never thought you could be so excited about grad school.

University College London, MA in Cultural Heritage Studies

This is currently the program I have salivated over the most. It might be my imagination/limited experience, but it seems to be the best program for cultural heritage studies anywhere in the world. As the description says, it is built both for students who want to study cultural heritage as an academic subject and for students looking to be employed in the field. Big selling points: the program only lasts a year (part-time students complete it in two years), and is “unique as a UK academic department in having an ethics policy concerning the illicit trade in antiquities.” The extensive and incredibly detailed prospectus set the program apart for me; many other schools do not include so much information on their programs’ philosophies, structure, and methods. The prospectus is huge fun. Enjoy this delicious little excerpt:

“As such we shall critically re-­‐visit the core question – what constitutes cultural heritage? -­‐ and engage with the concerns (notably the moral-­‐ethical issues) that shape and define a contemporary ‘politics of recognition’ and the possible futures of cultural heritage studies. By seeking to identify and problematise both the intellectual and operational strategies by which cultural heritage studies can engage responsibly with these new agendas and constituencies, this degree programme will focus not only on the critical contributions of archaeology, anthropology, museology, conservation, visual and material culture studies to this new dynamic but capture links and seize upon interventions currently being made elsewhere within the academy, at policy level and ‘on the ground’ which are led by alternative sets of values, lived experiences, strategic approaches and critical theorisations."

Are you excited yet?! If not, the course options have titles like, “Antiquities and the Law” and “Managing Museums” and “Understanding Objects”, which, personally, makes my heart beat a little faster. However, the testimonials from alums are kind of lame; while Simon Allwood, MA in Managing Archaeological Sites, says of his program, “Fantastic course with unbelievable support from all the tutors.”, Elena Payami, MA Cultural Heritage, says only, “It will get you thinking, that’s for sure.”

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