The curriculum entails a minimum of 30-credits of graduate courses. Those students who wish to also complete a thesis will take an additional 6 credits, for a total of 36-credits. All students will take five common core courses, with an option to choose between a preservation course or a public history course, depending on their emphasis on either material culture or public humanities. All students will also complete an internship/practicum project and report in a museum, historical society or cultural organization. Each student will be formally mentored by at least one faculty member in the creative formation of their plan of study.
A. Required Core Courses (15 credits)
- ART/HUM/RLCL 5104: Historical and Theoretical Frameworks in Material Culture and Public Humanities (3 cr)
(Investigation of methodologies with specific application to cultural objects situated in the public sphere)
- ART/HUM/RLCL 5204: Research Methods in Material Culture and Public Humanities (3 cr)
(Topics cover steps for developing an installation, from analysis, archiving, to writing and interpretation for various audiences.)
- HUM/RLCL 5304: Material Culture and Humanities in the Public Sphere (3 cr)
(Advanced seminar on material culture and humanities in the public sphere through an examination of humanistic approaches to civic spaces, applying critical turns to public debates.)
- ART 5984: Exhibition, Design, and Display (3 cr)
(Display and presentation of visual art, using local galleries as venues for student designed exhibitions. Provides experience in the public art arena and practical knowledge about planning, designing, and mounting an exhibition.)
- ITDS 5124: Preservation of Historic Interiors (3 cr)
(Study of restoration and preservation practices, including economic, social, and legal aspects and an introduction to historical research methodology.)
or one of the following public history courses
- HIST 5434 – Oral History Methods (3 cr)
(Theory and methodology of oral history methods. Use of oral history interviews in historical research, questions of ethics, interpretation, and the construction of memory. Technical operations and a variety of interview techniques, transcription, and historical use of interviews.
- HIST 5444 – Digital History Methods (3 cr)
(Methods for researching and presenting history in a digital environment, with special emphasis on use of digital media as a tool for public historians.)
- HIST 5454 – Topics in Public History (3 cr)
(Current methodological issues facing public history professionals, the intellectual foundations of these issues, and changing standards of practice in the field of public history to engage students in practical, experiential projects in public history. May be taken for a maximum of 6 credit hours.)
B. Restricted Electives in the Core (9 credits):
- One Communication course (3 credits):
- COMM 5524: Organizational Communication (3 cr)
- COMM 5534: Crisis and Issue Management (3 cr)
- COMM 5564: Persuasion and Social Influence (3 cr)
- One of two rotating special topics courses (3 credits):
- HUM/RLCL 5584: Topics in Public Humanities (3 cr)
- ART 5584: Topics in Material Culture (3 cr)
- One additional restricted elective course (3 credits) from a rich array of new and existing courses supporting students’ individual interests within the Material Culture and Public Humanities emphases.
C. Experiential Core Requirement (6 credits)
ART/HUM/RLCL 5904: Project and Report
A 6-credit practicum/internship experience in such places as historical societies, humanities foundations, cultural planning agencies, heritage or cultural tourism, museums, historic preservation offices, or community arts programs. This semester-long experience will give students invaluable experience developing and practicing skills that they are likely to encounter in future jobs. Our project and report course can place students in a wide variety of cultural institutions and geographical areas.
D. Thesis Option (6 credits)
ART/HUM/RLCL 5994: Thesis. Students who pursue the thesis option may choose to write about material culture and public humanities in any geographical area of their interest. It is expected that students planning on further graduate study will write a thesis, whereas those students intending to enter the employment field upon graduation will not. Thesis students will have an advisory committee comprised of a thesis chair, and two other faculty, one from SOVA and one from the Department of Religion and Culture. If the student does not pass his/her written and oral thesis defense, they will still graduate with the M.A. in Material Culture and Public Humanities (non-thesis option).
Graduate Certificate in Material Culture and Public Humanities
This cross-disciplinary graduate certificate provides opportunities for students in other graduate programs to take advantage of key courses in the MA program on Material Culture and Public Humanities. Both the MA and the graduate certificate have two interrelated emphases (material culture and public humanities) that share common intellectual issues and employment goals. Courses in this graduate certificate program offer students the opportunity to interpret material culture (e.g., physical objects; historical artifacts) within informed historical/ cultural frameworks and articulate their significance to the public. The certificate enables graduate students in the target population of architecture, interior design, history, communication, rhetoric, sociology, STS, and ASPECT better to compete for jobs in museums, historical societies, and community and cultural organizations.
Graduate standing at Virginia Tech (including those accepted by the Graduate School as Commonwealth Scholars) and an essay demonstrating interest or experience in a certificate in Material Culture and Public Humanities. Students seeking admission to the certificate program should consult with the Graduate Director or a member of the Steering Committee for the MA.
The certificate requires 9 credit hours, distributed as follows:
- ART/HUM/RLCL 5204: Research Methods in Material Culture and Public Humanities (3H, 3C)
Topics cover steps for developing an installation, from analysis, archiving, to writing and interpretation for various audiences.
- HUM/RLCL 5304: Material Culture and Humanities in the Public Sphere (3H, 3C)
Advanced seminar on material culture and humanities in the public sphere through an examination of humanistic approaches to civic spaces, applying critical turns to public debates.
One elective chosen from the following courses:
- ART 5584: Topics in Material Culture (3H, 3C)
Advanced seminar. Provides a comprehensive examination of various periods and subjects of material culture through rotating topics. Topics indicated by timetable. May be repeated for credit for a maximum of 9 credits. Graduate standing required.
- HUM/RLCL 5584: Topics in Public Humanities (3H, 3C)
Advanced seminar on topics in public humanities, ranging from an exploration of how various humanities disciplines relate to public issues and concerns, to a study of region, regionalism, and place in public humanities. May be repeated with different topic content for a maximum of 9 credits. Pre-requisite: Graduate Standing required.
- ITDS 5124: Preservation of Historic Interiors (3H, 3C)
Study of restoration and preservation practices, including economic, social, and legal aspects and an introduction to historical research methodology.
- HIST 5424: Public History (3H, 3C)
Introduction to the theoretical, interpretive, controversial, and practical issues facing public historians. Focus on interpretations and specific issues surrounding the presentation of history in museum inhibits, documentary films, photographic collections, community history projects, the Internet, and a variety of other public venues.
Click here for the graduate certificate application.
Accelerated Program in Material Culture and Public Humanities
The Program in Art History and the Department of Religion and Culture offer their undergraduate majors an accelerated degree program for the MA in Material Culture and Public Humanities. Once accepted, students may double count 12 credit hours toward undergraduate and graduate degrees (each credit hour counts toward both degrees at the same time).
- Students must be of junior status, about to enter their last 12 months of work toward their BA
- Applicants must have attained in-major GPAs of at least 3.5 (overall 3.0)
- Applicants must complete formal applications to the Graduate School at and must be accepted into the MA program prior to the beginning of the semester in which they would enroll in courses to be used on the accelerated program.
- A maximum of 12 credits of graded coursework may be used in the program
- No more than 6 of the double-counted credits may be at the 4000 level; all others must be offered for graduate credit
- A grade of B or higher must be earned in each course to be double counted
- Courses must not be taken pass-fail if a graded option is available
Applicable courses include all 4000-level offerings in the Program in Art History and the Department of Religion and Culture. All other double-counted units must come from the 5000-level Material Culture and Public Humanities courses.