Tuesday, 6 May 2014



Hello all! Welcome to the first thesis blog post, where MMsters who are doing the thesis option post about our research and experiences with the Museum Studies Thesis Option.

I am Robin Nelson and I began the MMst program in September 2013. My interest in museum studies developed as I completed my undergraduate degree in Art History with a minor in Museum Studies from the University of Calgary. Through my coursework and an independent project, I became interested in how museums were responding to the 2008 recession. As this research motivated me to apply to the iSchool, I came into the program wanting to do the thesis option and to continue researching the effect of economic downturns on museums.
My interests have shifted since starting the program, reflecting what I have learnt through the coursework. The objective of my proposed research is to examine the relationship between provincial funding strategies and museum public programming initiatives - a set of practices that invite audiences to engage with the institution. I believe the lack of long-term planning and consistency within provincial strategies has led to an environment of uncertainty that does not encourage public program sustainability or innovation and growth.  

To test my hypothesis I will focus on the province of New Brunswick. First, I will ask how provincial support for museums has changed from 2002 until 2012, evaluating cultural policy outputs in NB (http://www.gnb.ca/0007/policy/pdf/e-report.pdf). Second, I will conduct interviews with museum professionals and access museum archives to determine how the different funding environments have influenced public programming. The exploratory research will (hopefully) result in relevant recommendations regarding future funding strategies in Canadian provinces. 

During the summer, my posts will likely center around readings conducted as part of my literature review, which is a component of the thesis process. I will be researching cultural policy, focusing on the Canadian experience and funding to museums. I will also be investigating public programming because it (possibly?) benefits the “public” by providing access to and engagement with resources, which can lead to a more sustainable museum by fostering relationships with stakeholders. 

As my thesis examines the impact of subnational policy outputs on Canadian museums from the perspective of the institutions, a museum studies program is the ideal place to conduct this research. Further, I have a very helpful thesis committee. My supervisor, Dr. Alan Stanbridge (http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~stanbridge/), has an interest in and teaches a course on cultural policy, which I highly recommend.  My second reader, Dr. Cara Krmpotich (http://www.ischool.utoronto.ca/cara-krmpotich), has experience with the research methods I will be using, particularly working with human subjects. 

While some see the thesis option as a path toward a possible Phd, I am using it as an avenue to pursue my own interests, which may or may not lead to future studies. For now it is process of discovery and I look forward to discussing my research! While I welcome comments on my posts, I can also be contacted by email (robin.nelson@mail.utoronto.ca) if you have any questions or ideas.


  1. I'm really excited to gain insight into your interview and archival research process and findings! Since I am mainly engaging in theoretical work, it will be great to see how other research methods complement your questions and raise answers / new routes for investigation. As well, I am excited to learn more about New Brunswick, a province that I am not very familiar with.

    Thanks for taking the plunge and writing the first post!

  2. Thank you, brave thesis writers, for sharing your thoughts on and experience of the process. Robin, so glad to see such significant work on Canadian cultural policy and museum funding developing in our program. Look forward to reading more about the literature you will be reading over the summer. I think cultural policy is one of the most fascinating ways in which one can understand how nations and communities think about their culture (or at least try to figure out what culture is and what matters). Funding is of course more than just about the economics! It is a statement about what a nation or a province (and its government) considers significant and relevant.