Museum Studies


Instructors: Dr. Alexander Benitez, Dr. John Abbott, and Dr. Bill Bomar


Dr. John Abbott

Director of Museum Research & Collections, University of Alabama Museums
355 Mary Harmon Bryant Hall
(205) 348-0534

John Abbott grew up in Texas, falling in love at an early age with insects and natural history in general. He has nearly 30 years of experience working in museums as a researcher and was Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin for 14 years where he built the second largest insect collection in that state. He has experience in administration and exhibits as well, serving as the Director of Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve at St. Edward’s University. In 2016 John moved to Tuscaloosa to head up a new program within the UA Museums, the Department of Museum Research and Collections. His research career has focused around many aspects of entomology from the vibrational communication of stoneflies to endangered beetles, but currently, he focuses on the biogeography, systematics, and conservation of dragonflies and damselflies. He has incorporated citizen science and crowd-sourcing initiatives as a way to help collect data on a variety of odonate topics from presence/absence of species to trying to unravel the mysteries of dragonfly migration. He is currently writing a field guide to the Common Insects of Texas and creating a new Peterson Field to the Insects of North America. In addition, he serves as Editor-in-Chief for the International Journal of Odonatology and Associate Editor for Odonatologica. John enjoys engaging with others about nature and the topics in science that excite him. He has been teaching the Collections Management class at UA since the spring of 2016.

Dr. Alexander Benitez

Director, Moundville Archaeological Park
1 Map Administration Building
(205) 371-2234

Alex Benitez is the current Director of Moundville Archaeological Park. An archaeologist specializing in the ancient histories of Mesoamerica and Central America, he has worked for various state, federal and university-based museums over the past 30 years. He has a long-standing affiliation with Smithsonian Institution and most recently guest-curated “Ceramica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed” for the National Museum of the American Indian. Prior to joining the University of Alabama, he was an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at George Mason University in northern Virginia. Dr. Benitez earned his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. He currently teaches the UA Museum Studies course “Museum Education and Exhibition.”

Dr. William Bomar

Executive Director, University of Alabama Museums
121 Smith Hall
(205) 348-7551

Bill Bomar has worked in a wide variety of museums for over 30 years and has extensive experience in exhibit planning, fundraising, educational program development, and museum administration. He was the Director of The University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park for sixteen years and is currently the Executive Director of the University of Alabama Museums. He has also worked in museums of natural history and history, and heritage sites including a historic house museum, Civil War fort, and 1850s historic railroad complex. Bomar is a past president of the Alabama Museums Association and board member for the Southeastern Museums Conference. He is the current Alabama state representative to the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries and is on the Editorial Board for the American Association for State and Local History Book Series. His research has focused on graduate museum studies curricula in the United States as well as the professional personnel needs of 21st-century museums. He holds a B.A. in History and Anthropology and M.Ed. in Secondary Education from Georgia Southern University, an M.A. in Museum Studies from The University of Nebraska, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from The University of Alabama. Bomar has taught an annual course in Museum Administration at The University of Alabama since 2009.

Museum Studies Advisor and Internship Coordinator

Dr. John Friel

Director, Alabama Museum of Natural History
119 Smith Hall
(205) 348-2136

John Friel is the current Director of the Alabama Museum of Natural History and was previously the Curator of Fishes, Amphibians, and Reptiles at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates. He received his BS in zoology from the University of Central Florida, and his PhD in Zoology from Duke University. John has been a professional ichthyologist for over 20 years and has conducted field research on freshwater fishes throughout South America and Africa. Since moving to Alabama, in addition to overseeing the exhibits and programs of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, he has been developing the museum’s biodiversity and citizen science initiatives.