Should I go for a museum studies masters or would a public history masters be a better choice instead?
Background: I have all but completed a history masters, which is (and has been) on the back-burner right now due to financial and other reasons (mainly that it's impossible for me to get to the school, about an hour and a half drive away, now that I'm working full time): I intend to complete this degree at some point but I have no idea when that will be possible. This, btw, was a terminal masters degree program, not a masters to Ph.D one.
Right now I'm working in an educational institution that has a small (read:tiny) museum attached to, which I am responsible for: I keep stats, help people who come to visit and set up/shut down the exhibits (which are mostly interactive computers) each day. However, I don't actually care for the few actual artifacts that we have on display, nor would I have any input into what the exhibits would be if the administration decided to change things. It is a very
small museum and is not the main focus of the institution.
My job (which is not just the museum) is reasonable, but boring and low-paid, with absolutely no room for advancement unless my immediate supervisor steps down, and I foresee her maintaining an iron grip on her position for years yet. It is also in a field completely different than the one I trained for and the one I'm interested in.
When I first started my masters, I had a vague idea of either teaching or going into archival studies afterwards, but the program and some deeper research into what exactly was going on in academia and the library field at the time killed that idea pretty quickly. So I switched gears to considering potential museum work, with an eye on curatorial positions, and started to do research on museum studies degrees: I saw that several programs offered online distance programs, which was a plus for me because I'm already under a load of student loan debt from the first masters degree and I'm not willing to take out more loans for another degree, plus I already have time issues from my job.
However, once I started my research, I started to turn up pages like this
and it started to give me pause. I'd known and accepted the drawbacks to the field before I started researching the degree, but these articles were starting to make things sound like the museum field is either turning into or already is a retread of the library field and I long ago decided that I wasn't touching that
mess with a ten-foot pole. So I looked some more and came along to public history.
From the research I've done on a public history degree, it (obviously) seems to have a wider range of application than a museum studies degree and as much as I'd like to work in a museum, I'm willing to explore other options, which a public history degree seems to offer more scope for. However, far fewer places seems to offer it as a masters program, compared to museum studies and I haven't seen anyone offering it as an online distance degree either. Money, as I mentioned already, is a big concern, and the only (somewhat) nearby school that offers a public history masters is NYU, home of stratospheric tuition and it's not exactly easy or convenient for me to get there either.
1. Does one degree have a clear advantage over the other? As I said, I'd prefer to go into museum work but would adapt to other work if necessary. Public history would allow this, museum studies won't.
2. Would it even be worth getting a degree in public history if I finish my first masters? Would a public history degree possibly be considered redundant in that situation?
3. Museum field: really as bad as advertised or is this a case of unlucky people sounding off and making things out to be worse than they are?
4. From those links, and others I've read, it seems that a lot (but not all) of the people who had museum studies degrees but couldn't find jobs with them had no prior museum experiences other than the degree. Would my work in our tiny museum count as "museum experience" to someone hiring in the field or no?
5. Would an online museum studies degree be considered the same as one done in school? Also, I've read that the University of Leicester has a highly regarded museum studies program, and also offers a distance degree, but would a degree from a British institution be considered equal to one from an American school for someone who intends to work in American museums?
6. I've also come across this
program at FIT, which I would totally do if money and time weren't issues, because I adore antique clothing and textiles. However, I'm half assuming that this program would not be considered the equivalent of an actual museum studies degree and would be more along the lines of something aimed at someone who wanted to go into conservation (which sounds like an awesome field but waaaay too difficult to break into successfully from what I've read) and would give graduates a fairly narrow focus that would be useless for institutes that don't have fairly large costume/textile collections. Am I right?