Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Higher Education Administration

Major Professor

Lisa L. Driscoll

Committee Members

Lisa L. Driscoll, Norma T. Mertz, Jimmy G. Cheek, Mary Campbell


The purpose of this qualitative exploratory study was to examine the role of academic museums in modern American postsecondary education. This research examined the relationships developed by academic museums in support of the mission of their parent institutions with special attention to the impact of the sale of donated objects from the museum collection for the purpose of relief from financial exigency. The study included document review, interviews, and reflexive notes.

The four thematic findings of this exploratory study depict an academic museum as a complex entity within its parent institution that has inward-facing and outward-facing components which support the institutional mission. The inward role includes direct contact with students, support of faculty instruction, service learning, and incorporation of object-based learning on an interdisciplinary level. The outward role of the academic museum provides community education programs, cultural events, and connection opportunities for donors, as well as access to diverse communities. A third theme, governance, suggests that reporting lines can be complex depending on the parent institution and may have a major impact on the museum’s survival. A final theme that intersected the three previous themes is the ongoing need in every relationship to define the purpose of the museum and the reason why a museum maintains a collection. This study determined that the museum’s standing as an academic unit should be considered more carefully.

This study was contextualized by two major global events: the Covid-19 pandemic that forced closures of museums and campuses starting in March of 2020 and the racial justice and equity protests that began in the summer of 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic forced a reconsideration of how museums connect with people. The diversity and equity issues that occurred en masse at universities across the United States are universally supported by museum leadership while also resulting in the admission of a need for decolonization of the academic museum and more intense equity measures in museum management. The implications of these events on the findings, as well as recommendations for future research are also discussed.

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