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Classical Archaeology to Curate: MA or PhD?


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My background is a B.A. in English with a minor in violin performance and a B.S. in Anthropology with a focus in archaeology. Due to my lack of experience with Latin/Greek, I'm guessing that a Ph.D. in classical archaeology without a M.A. first would just not happen. Therefore, I am applying to master's programs that have no language requirements or who might make exceptions for students whose main interest is material culture rather than language. I am attempting to teach myself Latin and hope to be done with Wheelock's Latin before starting a master's program, but obviously that isn't going to get me into a Ph.D. 

In order to curate, is it a definite that I would need a Ph.D.? Would it be possible to find a low level curation position with an M.A.? Could I find a job that might fund me to get a Ph.D.?

I honestly feel pretty discouraged about the whole thing, given the present situation with the pandemic. I was so close this year to attending the school I wanted to go to and was even interviewed for two of the three assistantships for which I applied. Then they told me that no one was getting hired, presumably because of pandemic-related funding issues.

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1 hour ago, TaciturnTales said:

In order to curate, is it a definite that I would need a Ph.D.? Would it be possible to find a low level curation position with an M.A.? Could I find a job that might fund me to get a Ph.D.?

A way to address this question is to use a resource like LinkedIn to identify positions similar to the ones you have in mind as "low level" and to look at the work/education experience of incumbents who have been hired within the last several years.

A question.  Would you be willing to focus on the administrative and financial aspects of curation if those skills led to more opportunities?

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57 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

A question.  Would you be willing to focus on the administrative and financial aspects of curation if those skills led to more opportunities?

Yes, as long as I can also have a hand in research, I am willing to take on some administrative duties if that will help me. I was hoping to get into an M.A. program at a school where I could also get a Museum Studies Certification. I thought that might make me more marketable? Ultimately I am more interested in the research/educating the public side of curation, though.

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Not to be discouraging but most of the best Classical Archaeology programs expect language skills near if not entirely equal to philology/Ancient History students. It might be useful to take a year within a Classics post-bac program (UPenn, UCLA, Georgetown, UNC-Chapel Hill to name a few) in order to get an intensive in both languages. However these programs are costly and aren't funded so that can be a major turn off. Additionally, getting some intensive language training would definitely open up the pool of schools that you could consider and the positions that you could find yourself in. You can really only get so far (not very) in any classics derived field by ignoring the languages regardless of whether they're your primary interest.

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On 6/23/2020 at 11:41 AM, Haedus said:

Not to be discouraging but most of the best Classical Archaeology programs expect language skills near if not entirely equal to philology/Ancient History students. It might be useful to take a year within a Classics post-bac program (UPenn, UCLA, Georgetown, UNC-Chapel Hill to name a few) in order to get an intensive in both languages. However these programs are costly and aren't funded so that can be a major turn off. Additionally, getting some intensive language training would definitely open up the pool of schools that you could consider and the positions that you could find yourself in. You can really only get so far (not very) in any classics derived field by ignoring the languages regardless of whether they're your primary interest.

Not discouraging at all - I like people to give it to me straight. 😉 

I have found multiple programs in classical arch. that either only require experience in Latin OR Greek, some that will let you by with very little experience, and others that require no languages at all. (Of course all of this is contingent on you rectifying the situation during the program.) I've been systematically contacting all of them to see exactly what their requirements are and it really just depends on the program what they'll let you get away with. I should have at least five schools to apply to that might take me. I was already accepted to the one that I had wanted to attend for this fall, but then the funding that I was hoping to get fell through because of the pandemic. 

This being said, I am currently working on the situation by teaching myself Latin. I should be done with Wheelock's Latin and reading lower level Latin literature in March, which will give me some experience by the time I start a graduate program. I did want to do a post-bac. but, like you said, they are expensive and I can't afford it. x_x

Edited by TaciturnTales
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I just wanted to chime in and talk up the Classical Studies program at Villanova University, which can be taken fully online or hybrid/in-person. You can choose the culture track but still sit in on translation sections of the courses. They have been offering intensive Latin / intensive Greek some semesters as well (it doesn't count toward the MA itself but is a good refresher/jump into the language(s)). So perhaps a program that allows you to do something like this will help? 

My first MA was in Museum Studies and my plan is to curate as well. I'm probably going to do a PhD with a focus in art history or archaeology that has Classics as a close department relationship or as something I can choose as my main focus (e.g., one program I'm looking at is Art History with a focus in Antiquity to the 1700s, so I can choose Ancient Greek or Latin as my languages if I want to. This program requires 1 language and you work with your advisor to pick the right language for your study.) 

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On 7/3/2020 at 10:56 AM, ClassicsCandidate said:

I just wanted to chime in and talk up the Classical Studies program at Villanova University, which can be taken fully online or hybrid/in-person. You can choose the culture track but still sit in on translation sections of the courses. They have been offering intensive Latin / intensive Greek some semesters as well (it doesn't count toward the MA itself but is a good refresher/jump into the language(s)). So perhaps a program that allows you to do something like this will help? 

My first MA was in Museum Studies and my plan is to curate as well. I'm probably going to do a PhD with a focus in art history or archaeology that has Classics as a close department relationship or as something I can choose as my main focus (e.g., one program I'm looking at is Art History with a focus in Antiquity to the 1700s, so I can choose Ancient Greek or Latin as my languages if I want to. This program requires 1 language and you work with your advisor to pick the right language for your study.) 

Thank you for your input! Villanova is actually on my short list, so I'm glad to hear that they have a good program. I hope to move for my master's degree, so I suppose my main concern with living in PA is that the overall cost of living is somewhat high?

I'm also looking at schools that have a Museum Studies Certification of some sort. I feel like that will make me more marketable once I start job searching.

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I did the program while living with family and working a full-time museum job so I can't speak to how how the cost of living will affect you. Since I was a Tuition Scholar, all of my tuition was covered, but I did take out small loans for supplies (and my new laptop was paid for by an external scholarship). If you do end up at Villanova in person you could always see if you can get a volunteer or intern position at the Penn Museum too! 

Honestly, a lot of times with Museum Studies certs, there's an oversaturation of that credential specifically (when I realized this I was already halfway done my MA and didn't want to transfer or stop to go to another program). I honestly think that doing a Non-Profit Management certificate would be more marketable because you can use it outside museums, too. These programs usually have museum-focused courses as options but definitely take a grant-writing course if you can. That's a highly valuable skill, as well as fundraising. Personally if I could do it over, I would have gone to an MLIS program with an Archives/Special Collection and/or a Museum Studies concentration because it's more versatile. I don't want to say this to be discouraging but to give you an idea of what I've encountered. After an apprenticeship, countless volunteer hours, and a couple of internships, it took me 2 years after my BA graduation and halfway through my MA to land a full-time museum job and that was just a front-desk position, which I held for three years. It might be easier in a different city to get a job in museums, though. I lived in Chicago before where I live now and I never even got an interview anywhere there, either. All that being said, I hope you find the right programs for what you're looking for and if you have any more museum questions, let me know! I'm happy to answer anything.

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