Minot State professor helps bring museum studies to campus

Amanda Watts uses her years of experience to bring Museum Studies to Minot State University. Submitted Photo

Over the last year, Minot State University professor Amanda Watts has been putting together MSU’s new bachelor’s degree option in museum studies.

“I was born and raised in Minot and always knew I wanted to deal in archaeological objects for a profession. Given that there was nowhere near home to do that, it was off to Boston right away for college,” Watts said.

Watts went to grad school in London, England, and worked at the Museum of London while there.

“During my time with the Museum of London, Minot flooded. It was really difficult to be away while your community is suffering a tragedy,” she said. “Especially with something like salvaging water-damaged objects, there was a lot of work to do.”

Watts was able to advise the community while she was away from home to help with the process but ended up moving back to continue her efforts.

“I began teaching at Minot State that fall and was working with the Ward County Historical Society to help with conservation and outreach, so community members could learn how to deal with wet books, paper and photographs,” Watts said.

While still teaching at Minot State, Watts took a job as head of objects conservation in Afghanistan.

“I was still teaching at Minot State online,” Watts said. “It was nice to still be able to contribute to my community while being out in the field.”

Shortly after, Watts studied for her doctorate in North Dakota while also working on a project at the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. Since COVID-19, Watts hasn’t traveled much.

“In my journey of having a degree in archeology and trying to get into object conservation or museum studies, I was missing some courses that could’ve easily fit into my undergraduate degree. I just didn’t know,” Watts said. “So I had to come back and do some fine art classes, a chemistry class and a bunch of other stuff in order to get into my graduate programs.”

Watts’s memories of her round-about educational journey stuck with her throughout her career and kickstarted her idea to bring a museum studies bachelor’s degree to Minot State.

“I was able to take courses that were already available here and work with my colleagues to put together three different museum studies tracks, including conservation and collections care, directorship, and curation,” she said.

The way the courses are designed allows students to begin a specialization as an undergraduate. This makes it easier to get into master’s programs that specialize in one region or time period.

“My colleagues and I were able to look at what was already there in order to make this interdisciplinary program work,” Watts said. “There are classes with the history department, chemistry department and the biology department, and each of them allow our students to have a degree that will prepare them for their master’s.”

This bachelor’s program allows North Dakota students who want to stay in North Dakota the opportunity to remain in their home state and get a degree that opens up a plethora of opportunities for their post-undergraduate lives.

“I felt as if I had to leave North Dakota in order to get the education I needed for the career I wanted. Yes, I got to travel the world, but I’m not one of those people that wanted to leave,” Watts said “Offering students the opportunity not just to go away and then come home but to be able to build and grow their careers right here in North Dakota, I think, is very important.”


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