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Museum Studies Welcomes Dr. Peter H. Welsh as New Director

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This August, the Museum Studies program at KU will welcome Dr. Peter H. Welsh as Director of Museum Studies. Dr. Welsh, who holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania, brings more than 30 years of museum management and academic experience to the position.

His accomplishments in the museum studies field are diverse. In the 1980s he was one of the creators of the innovative argus collections management system at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles— argus has since been adopted and used by many museums worldwide. He has curated numerous exhibits, including Exotic Illusions: Art, Romance, and the Marketplace, which received the American Association of Museum Curators’ Committee Award for Excellence in 1989, and was selected by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service for a national tour. Dr. Welsh has held leadership positions with the Council for Museum Anthropology, and the Museum Association of Arizona. While serving as Chief Curator of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Dr. Welsh helped organize the National Dialog on Museum-Native American Relations and participated in the discussions that ultimately led to NAGPRA.

Dr. Welsh has published widely on topics that include cultural property, museum interpretation, museum studies theory, and museums in society. He led the graduate museum studies program at Arizona State University for 15 years, while also serving as the inaugural Director of the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, a museum, nature preserve and archaeological site with a concentration of Native American rock art. As part of his work with the Rock Art Center, Welsh organized field research teams to record the rock art on the Agua Fria National Monument, which led to advances in the efficiency and accuracy of rock art field methodology.

In 2008, Dr. Welsh returned to Museum work full time as the Director of the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park. During his time with the AHS, Dr. Welsh strengthened partnerships with area agencies and groups while emphasizing engagement with current issues. He also helped organize discussions among Phoenix area museum leaders to identify ways to share resources, combine marketing efforts, and build a strong multi-institutional coalition.

Dr. Welsh is tremendously excited by the many opportunities presented by KU’s Museum Studies program. The broad-based support already evident across the university is a clear indicator that the program can rise rapidly into the top tier of the country’s museum studies training programs. Beginning this fall, Dr. Welsh will be working with museum studies faculty, advisors, and students to refine the program’s vision and direction, with the aim of shaping a program that effectively prepares students to enter the museum profession and rise rapidly into positions of leadership. He will be reaching out to faculty whose work intersects with museum studies—broadly conceived—as well as connecting with departments, schools, and centers to explore new collaborations in research and teaching.

Dr. Welsh sees museums as having the potential to play a critical role in encouraging community discourse and building social cohesion. With that in mind, he views it as vital that students acquire not only a comprehensive overview of the field and a solid grounding in contemporary museum practice, but also that they are fully aware of current issues facing museums and have been encouraged to explore new and innovative approaches in the field. It is his goal that graduates from KU’s Museum Studies program will be able to take on future challenges with knowledge, imagination, confidence, and enthusiasm, and to become leaders in their chosen field.

Toward this end, Dr. Welsh has plans for increasing external funding and support for research and program opportunities that would increase student involvement and collaboration. He expects that students at every level will have the chance to participate in developing new and innovative approaches in the field. Before long, he believes, the KU Museum Studies program can become one that is unrivaled in the country.

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