Federal grant aims to increase minority representation in museum studies

Therese Quinn, director of the Museum and Exhibition Studies program, helped to get an NEH grant to increase minority representation in museum studies.

Therese Quinn, director of UIC’s museum and exhibition studies program

The University of Illinois at Chicago received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to sponsor two students of color as they earn master’s degrees in museum and exhibition studies.

The award is part of NEH’s inaugural Humanities Access grants, which provide cultural programming to underserved groups and were awarded to 34 organizations, including UIC’s museum and exhibition studies program, or MUSE. The grant calls for UIC to match $50,000 of NEH funds for stipends and tuition waivers worth a total of $100,000.

Therese Quinn, director of MUSE, cited recent statistics that show non-Hispanic whites make up the overwhelming number of curators, conservators and administrators helping museums pursue their intellectual and educational missions.

“The content-shaping positions are predominantly filled by white folks,” she said. And museums are also seeing fewer minorities among visitors.

“No matter what angle you look at it from, there is a real paucity of people of color.”

Currently 30 students are in the MUSE program, which accepts about 15 students a year. Students are required to have internships, and the program partners with campus museums, galleries and cultural centers to provide opportunities to research and write reviews and offer tours.

“We work very hard every year to find sources of funding for our students and applicants of the program who won’t be able to attend graduate school if they don’t find support,” Quinn said. “This [grant] makes it easier for us to get the students who we really hope will be in the program.”

“The humanities help us study our past, understand our present, and prepare for our future,” says NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to support projects that will benefit all Americans and remind us of our shared human experience.”

Topics