Museum and museology from Institute of Archaeology, UCL


Short description
This course aims to provide an introduction to the history and theory of museums. It does so by
approaching the museum from a series of critical perspectives, considering the museum, in turn,
as collection, as institution, as architecture, as exhibition, as site of memory, and as venue for
social advocacy. It explores these different conceptualisations of the museum by drawing on case
examples which reflect a diversity of museum contexts, including art museums, ethnographic
museums, natural history museums, social history museums, science museums, and so forth in
different regional and cultural settings. The course considers the representational role of
museums in nation building, and their entanglement in localising and globalising processes; it
explores the museum’s relationship to memory and commemoration; its social roles and
responsibilities; and its extension into digital domains. Building on a tradition of ‘critical
museology’, the course seeks to provoke students into questioning what a museum is and does,
and what it can be. It seeks to provide the broader historical and theoretical context to enable
students to engage critically with contemporary museum practice.

Week-by-week summary
Wk        Date              Topic
1 Tue, 30 September Thinking about Things
2 Tue, 7 October        The Museum as Collection
3 Tue, 14 October      The Museum as Institution
4 Tue, 21 October      The Museum as Architecture
5 Tue, 28 October      The Museum as Exhibition

READING WEEK (No Teaching)

6 Tue, 11 November  Museums and Representation
7 Tue, 18 November  Museums and Memoryscape
8 Tue, 25 November  Museums and Civil Society
9 Tue, 2 December    The Digital Museum
10 Tue, 9 December  The Relational Museum

Basic texts
Carbonell, B. (ed.) 2004. Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts. Oxford: Blackwell.
Henning, M., 2006. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Karp, I. et al (eds) 2006. Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Knell, S., MacLeod, S. & Watson, S. (eds) 2007. Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed. Abingdon: Routledge.
Kreps, C.F. 2003. Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation and Heritage Preservation. London: Routledge.
Macdonald, S. (ed.) 2006. A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell.
Macdonald, S. & Basu, P. (eds) 2007. Exhibition Experiments. Oxford: Blackwell.




This course aims to introduce students to the history and theory of museums by approaching the
institution of the museum from a series of critical perspectives. Building on a tradition of ‘criticalmuseology’, the course seeks to provoke students into questioning what a museum is and does, and what it can be. It seeks to provide the broader historical and theoretical context to enable students to engage critically with contemporary museum practice.

On successful completion of the course students should be able to:
 Demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of the history and development of
museums in different contexts
 Discuss and debate the concept and functions of the museum
 Employ theoretically-informed perspectives to critique established museological practice
 Demonstrate a familiarity with, and express opinions about, current museological debates
 Think and act beyond routinised ‘Eurocentric’ accounts and definitions of museums and cultural heritage, and be able to critically appreciate ‘alternative’ conceptualisations and understand the complexities involved in the globalisation of museological practices

Learning outcomes
 Familiarity with established knowledge
 Ability to apply knowledge in familiar and new situations for academic purposes
 Capacity for independent learning
 Capacity for critical thinking
 Capacity for independent inquiry
 Ability to read and understand a wide range of academic writing
 Ability to speak and write accurately on academic topics in an academically rigorous manner
 Ability to work as a team, make oral presentations and lead discussions

Assessment task
Students are asked to write a critical analysis of a specific museum, gallery, exhibition or digital resource of their choice, focusing on a particular theme (or combination of themes) that we explore in the course (e.g. the museum as architecture, museums and memoryscape, museums and civil society, the digital museum, etc.). Since there are no set essay questions for students to write to, this provides students with practice in formulating their own essay titles and considering carefully how they structure an argument in relation to a body of existing academic literature and a specific case example. The Course Co-ordinator is willing to discuss an outline of the student’s approach to the assignment, provided this is planned suitably in advance of the submission date.


Students should divide their essays into sections, including

(1) an introduction to the museum, gallery, exhibition or digital resource and the issues they intend to explore,

(2) a critical engagement with the relevant academic literature and debates, and

(3) using this discussion to develop an argument with reference to the specific museum, gallery, exhibition or digital resource they are exploring.

It is useful to conclude with a summary of the key points made in the essay.

The aim of the assignment is to encourage students to engage fully with the theoretical and historical literature explored in the course, and then to apply this knowledge in relation to a specific case example of the students’ own choosing. Students are encouraged to visit their ‘case study’ museums where possible, talk to museum staff, conduct some basic historical research, and take photographs to illustrate their essays.

Students are expected to pay close attention to spelling and grammar, and all essays should be properly referenced (see Citing of Sources section below). Do take advantage of the ‘Effective Academic Writing’ individual tutorials available through UCL’s Graduate School skills development programme (see

Please follow guidelines outlined in the Core Course handbook regarding submission guidelines.
Word-length UCL employs strict regulations with regard to word-length of coursework. Assessed work for this course should not exceed the prescribed length of 4,000 words by more than 10% (3800 – 4200 words). Penalties will only be imposed if you exceed the upper figure in the range. There is no penalty for using fewer words than the lower figure in the range: the lower figure is simply for your guidance to indicate the sort of length that is expected.

The following should not be included in the word-count: title page, contents pages, lists of figure and tables, abstract, preface, acknowledgements, bibliography, lists of references, captions and contents of tables and figures, appendices.





In this first seminar we provide an overview of UCL’s Museum Studies MA programme, outlining its aims and objectives, and the relationship between the various core courses. Students are then introduced to the Critical Perspectives course in particular, with an overview of the themes covered and discussion of the teaching approach.

The class will be divided into smaller reading groups, which will meet independently throughout the course and which will be required to prepare presentations and lead discussions. ‘Things’ are at the heart of museums (though we might question this assumption later in the course), and thus we begin the course by thinking about how things are significant to us, and how things acquire significance, meaning and value. We introduce the interdisciplinary field of material culture studies, and consider how objects – like people – may be said to have ‘social lives’ and ‘biographies’, how they are bound up in narratives, and even possess agency. Students are invited to bring along and tell the group about an object that has particular significance to them.

Essential reading

*Garrow, D. & Shove, E. 2007. ‘Artefacts Between Disciplines: The Toothbrush and the Axe’, Archaeological Dialogues 14(2): 117-131.

*Hoskins, J. 2006. ‘Agency, Biography and Objects’ in C. Tilley et al (eds) Handbook of Material Culture. London: Sage, pp.74-84.

*Miller, D. 2008. The Comfort of Things. Cambridge: Polity Press. (‘Prologue’, ‘Empty’, ‘Full’, pp.1-31)

Further reading

Appadurai, A. (ed.) 1986. The Social Life of Things. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Basu, P. & Coleman, S.M. 2008. ‘Introduction: Migrant Worlds, Material Cultures’, Mobilities 3(3): 313-330.

Dudley, S. (ed.) 2012. Museum Objects: Experiencing the Properties of Things. London: Routledge.

Edwards, E. & Hart, J. 2004. ‘Mixed Box: The Cultural Biography of a Box of “Ethnographic” Photographs’ in E. Edwards & J. Hart (eds) Photographs Objects Histories. London: Routledge, pp.47-61.

Gosden, C. & Marshall, Y. 1999. ‘The Cultural Biography of Things’, World Archaeology 31(2): 169-178.

Hoskins, J. 1998. Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of Peoples’ Lives. New York: Routledge.

Miller, D. 2007. ‘Artefacts and the Meaning of Things’ in S.J. Knell (ed.) Museums in the Material World. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.166-186.

Woodward, I. 2007. Understanding Material Culture. London: Sage





Ole Worm’s collection of curiosities (Museum Wormianum, 1655).

The accumulation, organisation and display of valued objects is fundamental to our conceptualisation of the museum. Many regard collecting as an innate – and therefore universal – aspect of human behaviour. In this seminar we explore some of the motivations behind collecting practices, and investigate the relationship between objects, knowledge and power.

Whilst the first systematic collections that we know about were formed in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, our main focus will be the more recent history of European collecting. Thus, we trace the origins of the modern museum to the Enlightenment-period cabinets of curiosity, and then examine how these collecting practices evolved through the classic ‘Museum Age’, drawing on case examples such as the British Museum and V&A.

This was also an age of imperialism, industry and colonial expansion, and we are concerned too with understanding the colonial politics of collecting and museum-making (a theme we return to in Seminar 6). We examine how the meanings and values of objects are transformed as they are collected and incorporated into museums (Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ highlight a more subtle process), and we also think about the future of collecting.

Essential reading

*Alberti, S. 2005. ‘Objects and the Museum’, Isis 96(4): 559-571.

*Barringer, T. 1998. ‘The South Kensington Museum and the Colonial Project’ in T.J. Barringer & T. Flynn (eds) Colonialism and the Object. London: Routledge, pp.11-27.

*Macdonald, S. 2006. ‘Collecting Practices’ in S. Macdonald (ed.) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.81-97.

Further reading

Arnold, K. & Olsen, D. 2003. ‘Medicine Man: The Forgotten Museum of Henry Wellcome’, Medical History 47(3): 369-381.

Baker, M. et al. 1997. A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art.

Belk, R.W. 2001. Collecting in a Consumer Society. London: Routledge.

Blanchard, P. 2008. Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Blom, P. 2003. To Have and To Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting. New York: Overlook Press.

Bujok, E. 2009. ‘Ethnographica in Early Modern Kunstkammern and their Perception’, Journal of the History of Collections 21(1): 17-32.

Clifford, J. 1986. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Chapter 10: ‘On Collecting Art and Culture’, pp.215-250)

Corbey, R. 1993. ‘Ethnographic Showcases, 1870-1930’, Cultural Anthropology 8(3): 338-369.

Elsner, J. & Cardinal, R. (eds), 1994, The Cultures of Collecting. London: Reaktion.

Findlen, P. 1989. ‘The Museum: Its Classical Etymology and Renaissance Genealogy’, Journal of the History of Collections 1(1): 59-78.

Gosden, C. & Knowles, C. 2001. Collecting Colonialism: Material Culture and Colonial Change. Oxford: Berg.

Gosden, C. & Larson, F. 2007. Knowing Things: Exploring the Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum 1884-1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Greenhalgh, P. 1988. Ephemeral Vistas: History of the Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hawkins, H. & Olsen, D. (eds) 2003. The Phantom Museum and Henry Wellcome’s Collection of Medical Curiosities. London: Profile Books.

Henning, M., 2006. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press. (Chapter 1: ‘Object’, pp.5-36)

Hobhouse, H. 2002. The Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition: Art, Science and Productive Industry. London: Athlone. (Chapter 6: ‘The Battle for Scientific Education in South Kensington’, pp.243-274)

Impey, O. & MacGregor, A. (eds) 1985. The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe. Oxford : Clarendon.

Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. 1991. ‘Objects of Ethnography’ in I. Karp & S.D. Lavine (eds) Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp.386-443.

Knell, S.J. (ed.) 2004. Museums and the Future of Collecting, 2nd edition. Aldershot: Ashgate. (Chapter 1: ‘Altered Values: Searching for a New Collecting’, pp.1-46)

Larson, F. 2009. An Infinity of Things: How Henry Wellcome Collected the World. Oxford: OUP

MacGregor, A. (ed.) 1994. Sir Hans Sloane: Founding Father of the British Museum. London: BMPress.

MacGregor, A. (ed.) 2007. Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the

Nineteenth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Muensterberger, W. 1994. Collecting: An Uruly Passion. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

O’Hanlon, M. & Welsch, R.L. (eds) 2000. Hunting the Gatherers: Ethnographic Collectors, Agents and Agency in Melanesia, 1870s-1930s. Oxford: Berghahn.

Pearce, S. (ed.) 1990. Objects of Knowledge. London: Athlone Press.

Pearce, S., (ed) 1994. Interpreting Objects and Collections. London: Routledge.

Pearce, S. 1995. On Collecting: An Investigation into the European Tradition. London: Routledge.

Pomian, K. 1990. Collectors and Curiosities: Paris and Venice, 1500-1800. Cambridge: Polity.

Shelton, A. (ed.) 2001. Collectors: Expressions of Self and Other. London: Horniman Museum.

Shelton, A. (ed.) 2001. Collectors: Individuals and Institutions. London: Horniman Museum.

Shelton, A.A. 2007. ‘The Collector’s Zeal: Towards and Anthropology of Intentionality, Instrumentality and Desire’ in P. ter Keurs (ed), Colonial Collections Revisited. Leiden: CNWS, pp.16-44.

Steiner, C.B. 1995. ‘The Art of the Trade’ in G.E. Marcus and F.R. Myers (eds) The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp.151-165.

Stewart, S. 1993. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (Chapter 5: Objects of Desire, pp.132-169)

Ucko, P.J. 1998. ‘The Biography of a Collection: The Sir Flinders Petrie Palestinian Collection and the Role of University Museums’, International Journal of Museum Management & Curatorship 17(4): 351-399.

Were, G. and King, J.C.H. (eds) 2012. Extreme Collecting: Challenging Practices for Twenty-First Century Museums. Oxford: Berghahn.

Recommended museum visits

Enlightenment Gallery (Room 1), British Museum
Freud Museum



The Zoology Gallery at the British Museum, London (London Interiors, 1841).
In this seminar we engage with an important critique of the museum as a public institution concerned not only with the ordering of objects and knowledges, but also with the ordering of people and society. Thus, in the nineteenth century, the public museum was regarded as ‘an instrument for civilising the morals and manners of the population’, part of the ‘civilising mission’ of the bourgeois classes. Whilst this Foucauldian critique was developed in relation to public art museums, it can be applied to other kinds of museums and is, of course, still relevant today. We consider the continuing role of the museum visit as a ‘civilising ritual’ (to use Carol Duncan’s phrase) and an opportunity for the acquisition of social capital (see Bourdieu). Concerning the relationship of knowledge and power, we examine how the museum may be regarded as a cultural artefact endowed with an aura of authority constructed through its ‘scientific’ taxonomies, its techniques of display, and the performance of curatorial expertise.

Essential reading

*Barrett, J. 2011. Museums and the Public Sphere. Oxford: Wiley. (Chapter 2: ‘Historical Discourses of the Museum’, pp.45-80)

*Bennett, T. 1988. ‘The Exhibitionary Complex’, New Formations 4: 73-102. (Also republished in Bennett’s The Birth of the Museum, see below)

*Hooper-Greenhill, E. 1992. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. London: Routledge. (Chapter 1: ‘What is a Museum?’, pp.1-22)

Further reading

Altick, R.D. 1999. ‘National Monuments’ in D. Boswell & J. Evans (eds), Representing the Nation: A Reader. Histories, Heritage and Museums. London: Routledge, pp.240-258.

Bal, M. 1996. Double Exposures: The Practice of Cultural Analysis. London: Routledge.

Barrett, J. 2011. Museums and the Public Sphere. Oxford: Wiley.

Bennett, T. 1995. The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. London: Routledge.

Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bourdieu, P. and Darbel, A. 1991. The Love of Art: European Art Museums and Their Public. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Carr, D. 2003. The Promise of Cultural Institutions. Lanham, MD: AltaMira.

Crimp, D. 1993. On the Museum’s Ruins. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Duncan, C. 1991. ‘Art Museums and the Ritual of Citizenship’ in I. Karp & S.D. Lavine (eds) Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, pp.88-103.

Duncan, C. 1995. Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. London: Routledge.

Foucault, M., 1970, The Order of Things. London: Tavistock.

Fraser, A. 2006. ‘Isn’t This a Wondeful Place? (A Tour of a Tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao’ in I. Karp et al (eds) Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. pp.135-160.

Hetherington, K. 1996. ‘The Utopics of Social Ordering: Stonehenge as a Museum without Walls’ in S.Macdonald & G. Fyfe (eds) Theorizing Museums. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hetherington, K. 2011. ‘Foucault, the Museum and the Diagram’, The Sociological Review 59(3): 457-475.

Hill, K. 2005. Culture and Class in English Public Museums, 1850-1914. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.

Huyssen, A. 1995. Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia. New York: Routledge. (Chapter 1: ‘Escape from Amnesia: The Museum as Mass Medium’, pp.13-35)

Knell, S., Aronsson, P., Amundsen, A. (eds.) 2010. National Museums: New Studies from Around the World. London: Routledge.

Macdonald, S. 1998. ‘Exhibitions of Power and Powers of Exhibition’ in S. Macdonald (ed.) The Politics of Display: Museums, Science, Culture. London: Routledge.

Macdonald, S., 2002. Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum. Oxford: Berg.

Macdonald, S. & Silverstone, R. 1990. ‘Rewriting the Museums’ Fictions: Taxonomies, Stories and Readers’, Cultural Studies 4(2): 176-191.

Oberhardt, S. 2001. Frames Within Frames: The Art Museum as Cultural Artifact. New York: Peter Lang

Pickstone, J.V. Ways of Knowing: A New History of Science, Technology and Medicine. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Pile, S. 2005. ‘In the Footsteps of Angels: Tim Brennan’s “Museum of Angels” Guided Walk’, Cultural Geographies 12(4): 521-526.

Pollock, G. 2007. ‘Un-Framing the Modern: Critical Space/Public Possibility’ in G. Pollock & J. Zemans (eds) Museums After Modernism: Strategies of Engagement. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.1-39.

Sherman, D.J. & Rogoff, I. (eds) 2004. Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles. London: Routledge.

Thackray, J. and Press, B. 2001. The Natural History Museum: Nature’s Treasurehouse. London: Natural History Museum.

Vergo, P. 1989. The New Museology. London: Reaktion.

Whitehead, C. 2005. The Public Art Museum in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Development of the National Gallery. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Zolberg, V.L. 2004. ‘“An Elite Experience for Everyone”: Art Museums, the Public, and Cultural Literacy’ in D.J. Sherman & I. Rogoff (eds) Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles. London: Routledge, pp.49-65.

Recommended museum visits

The National Gallery

Tate Modern




Alfred Waterhouse’s Natural History Museum, London.

In a fundamental way, museums may be regarded as buildings that contain objects on display. The history of the museum is therefore also an architectural history. In this seminar we are concerned with the language and symbolism of museum buildings: from the neo-Classical portico of the British Museum to the neo-Gothic halls of the Natural History Museum to the titanium curves of the Guggenheim, Bilbao, what do these buildings communicate? (Temples of learning? Cathedrals of art?) Yet architecture is more than expression: the architectural space of the museum also entails a spatial ordering of knowledge, as well as of bodily movements, experiences and perceptions. In contrast to the supposed neutrality of the ‘white cube’ gallery, a new generation of architects see the museum building as integral to the museum’s ‘programme’ and as a dynamic aspect of the visitor experience. Thus Daniel Libeskind, architect of the Jewish Museum, Berlin, argues that ‘the museum form itself must be rethought in order to transcend the passive involvement of the viewer’. Among other relationships between museums and architectures, we consider architecture as collection, as in the case of collections of vernacular architecture in open air museums.

Essential reading

*Basu, P., 2007, ‘The Labyrinthine Aesthetic in Contemporary Museum Design’ in S. Macdonald & P. Basu (eds), Exhibition Experiments. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.47-70.
*Giebelhausen, M. 2006. ‘The Architecture Is the Museum’ in J. Marstine (ed.) New Museum Theory and Practice. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.41-63.
*Yanni, C. 1996. ‘Divine Display or Secular Science: Defining Nature at the Natural History Museum in London’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 55(3): 276-299.

Further reading

Chaplin, S. & Stara, A. (eds) 2009. Curating Architecture and the City. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis.
Chappell, E.A. 1999. ‘Open-Air Museums: Architectural History for the Masses’, Journal of Architectural Historians 58(3): 334-341.
Crook, J.M. 1972. The British Museum: A Case Study in Architectural Politics. London: Allen Lane.
Davidts, W. 2006. ‘Art Factories: Museums of Contemporary Art and the Promise of Artistic Production, from Centre Pompidou to Tate Modern’, Fabrications 16(1): 23-42.

Davidts, W. 2006. ‘Rethinking the Museum: Architecture’s Lost Cause’ in V. Kittlausz & W. Pauleit (eds) Kunst – Museum – Kontexte: Perspektiven der Kunst- und Kulturvermittlung. Bielefeld: Transcript. pp.73-84.
Forgan, S. 2005. ‘Building the Museum: Knowledge, Conflict, and the Power of Place’, Isis 96(4): 572-585.
Freed, J.I. 1989. ‘The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’, Assemblage 9: 58-79.
Furjan, H. 2011. Glorious Visions: John Soane’s Spectacular Theater. London: Routledge
Giebelhausen, M. 2006. ‘Museum Architecture: A Brief History’ in S. Macdonald (ed) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.223-244.
Giebelhausen, M. (ed.) 2003. The Architecture of the Museum: Symbolic Structures, Urban Contexts. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Girouard, M. 1999. Alfred Waterhouse and the Natural History Museum, Second Edition. London: Natural History Museum.
Hillier, B. & Tzortzi, K. 2006. ‘Space Syntax: The Language of Museum Space’ in S. Macdonald (ed) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.282-301.
Kaufman, E.N. 1989. ‘The Architectural Museum from World’s Fair to Restoration Village’, Assemblage 9: 20-39.
Klonk, C. 2009. Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800 to 2000. New Haven: Yale Uni Press.
Lampugnani, V.M. & Sachs, A. (eds) 1999. Museums for a New Millennium: Concepts, Projects, Buildings. Munich: Prestel.
Libeskind, D. 2001. The Space of Encounter. London: Thames and Hudson.
MacLeod, S. (ed.) 2005. Reshaping Museum Space: Architecture, Design, Exhibitions. London: Routledge.
MacLeod, S. 2013. Museum Architecture: A New Biography. Abingdon: Routledge.
Millenson, S.F. 1989. Sir John Soane’s Museum. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press.
Naredi-Rainer, P. von 2004. Museum Buildings: A Design Manual. Basel: Birkaüser.
Newhouse, V. 1998. Towards a New Museum. New York: Monacelli Press.
O’Doherty, B. 1976. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Chapter 1: ‘Notes on the Gallery Space’, pp.13-64)
Oliver, P. 2001. ‘Re-Presenting and Representing the Vernacular: The Open-Air Museum’ in N. AlSayyad (ed.) Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage. London: Routledge, pp.191-211.
Psarra, S. 2009. Architecture and Narrative: The Formation of Space and Cultural Meaning. London: Routledge.
Rosenblatt, A. (ed.) 2001. Building Type Basics for Museums. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Roth, L.M. 2007. Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, & Meaning. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Schneider, B. 1999. Daniel Libeskind: Jewish Museum Berlin. Munich: Prestel.
Serota, N. 1996. Experience or Interpretation: The Dilemma of Museums of Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson.
Sirefman, S. 1999. ‘Formed and Forming: Contemporary Museum Architecture’, Daedalus 128(3): 297-320.
Steffensen-Bruce, I.A. 1998. Marble Palaces, Temples of Art: Art Museums, Architecture, and American Culture. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.
Tilley, C.Y. 1994. A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths, and Monuments. Oxford: Berg. (Chapter 1: ‘Space, Place, Landscape and Perception’, pp.7-34)
Whitehead, C. 2005. The Public Art Museum in Nineteenth-Century Britain: The Development of the National Gallery. Aldershot: Ashgate. (Chapter 3: ‘Museum Architecture and Public Improvement’, pp.59-68)
Wineman, J.D. and Peponis, J. 2010. ‘Constructing Spatial Meaning: Spatial Affordances in Museum Design’, Environment and Behaviour 42(1): 86-109.
Yanni, C. 2005. Nature’s Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Recommended museum visits
Natural History Museum
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Tate Modern



ScienceStorms_wide_002 (1)

The Science Museum, London.

The popular perception of the museum is of a series of galleries where objects are put on display. Museums are thus regarded primarily as exhibitionary media, and many visitors are shocked to discover that the vast majority of a museum’s collections are hidden away in storage. There are many ways of approaching the theme of exhibition. We are less concerned here with technical specifications or matters of ‘good practice’. Our interest is, rather, with the exhibition as a site of ‘meaning-making’. As Weibel and Latour observe, the museum exhibition is ‘a highly artificial assemblage of objects, installations, people and arguments’, and yet these elements are brought into relation with one another within the exhibition. It is these relationships – juxtapositions, sequences, transitions – that we explore in this seminar. Drawing on semantics and narrative theory, we explore the changing ‘grammar’ of exhibition form (considering, for example, the combinatory syntax of light, sound, display panels, vitrines, etc.), and the sense-making pathways that visitors enact in these spaces. Crucially we challenge the reductivism inherent in many museum displays, and explore how exhibitions can engage with complexity.

Essential reading
*Basu, P. & Macdonald, S. 2007. ‘Introduction: Experiments in Exhibition, Ethnography, Art and Science’ in S. Macdonald & Basu, P. (eds), Exhibition Experiments. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.1-24.
*Henning, M., 2006. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press. (Chapter 2: ‘Display’, pp.37-69)
*Moser, S. 2010. ‘The Devil is in the Detail: Museum Displays and the Creation of Knowledge’, Museum Anthropology 33(1): 22-32.

Further reading
Bal, M. 1996. Double Exposures: The Subject of Cultural Analysis. New York: Routledge.
Bal,M. 2001. ‘On Grouping: The Caravaggio Corner’ in N. Bryson (ed.) Looking In: The Art of Viewing. New York: Routledge, pp.161-190.
Bal, M., 2007, ‘Exhibition as Film’ in S. Macdonald & P. Basu (eds), Exhibition Experiments. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.71-93.
Belcher, M. 1991. Exhibition in Museums. Leicester: Leicester University Press.
Bolton, L. 2008. ‘Living and Dying: Ethnography, Class, and Aesthetics in the British Museum’ in D.J. Sherman (ed.) Museums and Difference. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp.330-353.

Bouquet, M. 2000. ‘Thinking and Doing Otherwise: Anthropological Theory in Exhibitionary Practice’, Ethnos 65(2): 217-236.
Cartiere, C. & Willis, S. (eds.) 2009. The Practice of Public Art. London: Routledge.
Dean, D. 1996. Museum Exhibition: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.
Dernie, D. 2006. Exhibition Design. London: Laurence King.
Derrida, J. 1979. ‘The Parergon’, October 9: 3-41.
Greenberg, R., Ferguson, B. & Nairne, S. (eds) 1996. Thinking About Exhibitions. London: Routledge.
Henderson, A. & Kaeppler, A.L. (eds) 1997. Exhibiting Dilemmas: Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Henning, M., 2006. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press. (Chapter 3: ‘Media’, pp.70-98)
Hughes, P. 2010. Exhibition Design. London: Laurence King.
Hooper-Greenhill, E. (ed.) 1999. Museum, Media, Message. London: Routledge.
Kaplan, F.E.S. 1999. ‘Exhibitions as Communicative Media’ in E. Hooper-Greenhill (ed.) Museum, Media, Message. London: Routledge, pp.37-58.
Karp, I. and Lavine, S.D. (eds), 1991, Exhibiting Cultures: the Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Latour, B. & Weibel, P. 2002. Iconoclash. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press & Karlsruhe: ZKM/Center for Art and Media. (Introduction available at course Moodle site)
Latour, B. & Weibel, P. 2005. Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press & Karlsruhe: ZKM/Center for Art and Media. (Introduction available at course Moodle site)
Lidchi, H. 1997. ‘The Poetics and Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures’ in S. Hall (ed.) Representations: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage. pp.199-219.
Macdonald, S. 2007. ‘Interconnecting: Museum Visiting and Exhibition Design’, CoDesign 3(S1): 149-162. (Available at course Moodle site)
Macdonald, S. & Basu, P. (eds) 2007. Exhibition Experiments. Oxford: Blackwell.
MacLeod, S., Hanks, L.H. & Hale, J.A. (eds) 2012. Museum Making: Narratives, Architectures, Exhibitions. Abingdon: Routledge.
McIsaac, P.M. 2008. ‘Gunther von Hagen’s Body Worlds: Exhibitionary Practice, German History, and Difference’ in D.J. Sherman (ed.) Museums and Difference. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp.155-202.
Marincola, P. (ed.) 2007. What Makes a Great Exhibition? Questions of Practice. Philadelphia, PA: University of the Arts.
Noordegraaf, J. 2004. Strategies of Display: Museum Presentation in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Visual Culture. Rotterdam: NAi Publishers. [British Library]
O’Hanlon, M. 1993. Paradise: Portraying the New Guinea Highlands. London: British Museum Press. (Chapter 3: ‘Exhibiting in Practice’, pp.78-92)
Potteiger, M. & Purington, J. 1998. Landscape Narratives: Design Practices for Telling Stories. New York: John Wiley & Sons
Psarra, S. 2009. Architecture and Narrative: The Formation of Space and Cultural Meaning. London: Routledge. (Chapter 5: ‘Soane Through the Looking Glass: The House-Museum of Sir John Soane’, pp.111-135).
Putnam, J. 2001. Art and Artifact: The Museum as Medium. London: Thames & Hudson.
Ricoeur, P. 1991. ‘Life in Quest of Narrative’ in D. Wood (ed.) On Paul Ricoeur: Narrative and Interpretation. London: Routledge, pp.20-33.
Wonders, K. 1993. Habitat Dioramas: Illusions of Wilderness in Museums of Natural History. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.

Recommended museum visits
London Transport Museum




Musée du quai Branly, Paris.

It is no coincidence that the rise in museums and heritage consciousness occurred in the so-called ‘age of nationalism’. A central role of national museums has been to represent the nation to itself and to others, disseminating an often triumphalist narrative of national development. As we have already seen, this was also an era of colonial expansion, and in Britain, France and other colonial powers, the representation of the nation was, above all, a representation of imperial power. This was achieved through the display of the indigenous cultures of subject colonies at international expositions and in ethnographic galleries of public museums. Dominated by evolutionary ideologies, these displays of ‘primitive societies’ served to assure metropolitan audiences of their place at the apex of civilization and justify the colonial project. European-type museums and their representational forms were established in many colonial territories (see, for example, the literature on IFAN), and, paradoxically, these often became national museums and played a significant role in post-colonial nation-building projects. In this seminar we review this history and consider the role of ethnographic museums in the present, where, on the one hand, we see an attempt to re-present these collections to speak to issues of multiculturalism and transcultural dialogue, and, on the other, we see the persistence of outmoded paradigms, albeit often cloaked in the guise of aestheticism. We also seek to draw this discussion out from an ethnographic perspective, exploring other forms of discrimination through under-representation, such as the lack of LGTB narratives in museum environments.

Essential reading
*Phillips, R.B. 2007. ‘Exhibiting Africa after Modernism: Globalization, Pluralism, and the Persistent Paradigms of Art and Artefact’ in G. Pollock & J. Zemans (eds) Museums After Modernism: Strategies of Engagement. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.80-103.
*Pieterse, J.N., 1997. ‘Multiculturalism and Museums: Discourse about Others in the Age of Globalization’, Theory, Culture & Society 14(4): 123-146.
*Shelton, A.A. 2009. ‘The Public Sphere as Wilderness: Le Musée du quai Branly’, Museum Anthropology 32(1): 1-16.

Further reading
Adedze, A. 2002. ‘Symbols of Triumph: IFAN and the Colonial Museum Complex in French West Africa (1938-1960), Museum Anthropology 25(2): 50-60.

Ames, M.M. 1992. Cannibal Tours and Glass Boxes: The Anthropology of Museums. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.
Ames, M.M. 1999. ‘How to Decorate a House: The Re-negotiation of Cultural Representations at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology’, Museum Anthropology 22(3): 41-51.
Arnoldi, M.J. 1999. ‘Overcoming a Colonial Legacy: The New National Museum in Mali: 1976 to the Present’, Museum Anthropology 22(3): 28-40.
Appadurai, A., 1996, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Bal, M. 1992. ‘Telling, Showing, Showing Off’, Critical Inquiry 18(3): 556-594.
Butler, S.R. 2011. Contested Representations: Revisiting Into the Heart of Africa. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Clarke, C. 2006. ‘From Theory to Practice: Exhibiting African Art in the Twenty-First Century’ in A. McClellan (ed.) Art and its Publics: Museum Studies at the Millennium. Oxford: Blackwell.
Cohn, B.S. 1996. Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 4: The Transformation of Objects into Artefacts, Antiquities and Art in Nineteenth-Century India)
Coombes, A. 1994. Re-Inventing Africa: Museums, Material Culture and Popular Imagination in Late Victorian and Edwarian England. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Crinson, M. 2001, ‘Nation-Building, Collecting and the Politics of Display’, Journal of the History of Collections 13(2): 231-250.
Dias, N. 2008. ‘Cultural Difference and Cultural Diversity: The Case of the Musée du Quai Branly’ in D.J. Sherman, D.J. (ed.) Museums and Difference. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, pp.124-154.
Fladmark, J.M. (ed) 2000. Heritage and Museums: Shaping National Identity. Shaftesbury: Donhead
Griffiths, A. 2002. Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. (Chapter 1: ‘Life Groups and the Modern Museum Spectator’, pp.3-45; Chapter 2: ‘Science and Spectacle: Visualizing the Other at the World’s Fair’, pp.46-85)
Guha-Thakurta, T. 2004. Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India. New York: Columbia University Press.
Harris, C. & O’Hanlon, M. 2013. ‘The Future of Ethnographic Museums’, Anthropology Today 29(1): 8-12.
Harrison, R., Byrne, S. & Clarke, A. (eds) 2013. Reassembling the Collection: Ethnographic Museums and Indigenous Agency. Sante Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.
Henare, A. 2005. Museums, Anthropology and Imperial Exchange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kaplan, F.S. (ed) 1994. Museums and the Making of Ourselves: The Role of Objects in National Identity. Leicester: Leicester University Press.
Karp, I. et al (eds) 2006. Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Kennedy, R.G., 1996, ‘Some Thoughts about National Museums at the End of the Century’ in G. Wright (ed), The Formation of National Collections of Art and Archaeology. London: National Gallery of Art. pp.159-163.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. 1991. ‘Objects of Ethnography’ in I. Karp and S.D. Lavine (eds) Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington DC: Smithsonian, pp.386-443.
Knell, S.J. 2010. National Museums: New Studies from Around the World. Abingdon: Routledge.
Kreps, C.F. 2003. Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation and Heritage Preservation. London: Routledge. (Chapter 2: ‘The Eurocentric Museum Model in the Non-European World, pp.20-45)
Kreps, C.F. 2006. ‘Non-Western Models of Museums and Curation in Cross-Cultural Perspective’ in in S. Macdonald (ed) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.457-476.
Lidchi, H. 1997. ‘The Poetics and Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures’ in S. Hall (ed.) Representations: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage. pp.199-219.
Lionnet, F. 2001. ‘The Mirror and the Tomb: Africa, Museums and Memory’, African Arts 34(3): 50-59, 93.
Longair, S. and McAleer, J. (eds) 2012. Curating Empire: Museums and the British Imperial Experience. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
McCarthy, C. 2007. Exhibiting Maori: A History of Colonial Cultures of Display. Oxford: Berg.

McClellan, A. 1996. ‘Nationalism and the Origins of the Museum in France’ in G. Wright (ed), The Formation of National Collections of Art and Archaeology. London: National Gallery of Art. pp.29-39.
Macdonald, S. 2001. ‘Museums, national, postnational and transcultural identities’, Museum and Society 1(1): 1-16 (
MacKenzie, J.M. 2009. Museums and Empire: Natural History, Human Cultures and Colonial Identities. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Message, K. 2006. New Museums and the Making of Culture. Oxford: Berg.
Mitchell, T. 1989. ‘Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order’ in N. Dirks (ed.) Colonialism and Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp.289-318.
O’Hanlon, M. 1993. Paradise: Portraying the New Guinea Highlands. London: British Museum Press.
Perkins, M. & Morphy, H. (eds) 2006. The Anthropology of Art. Oxford: Blackwell. (See Part II: Primitivism, Art, and Artifacts)
Phillips, R.B. 2002. ‘Where is “Africa”? Re-Viewing Art and Artifact in the Age of Globalization’, American Anthropologist 104(3): 944-952.
Phillips, R.B. 2005. ‘Re-Placing Objects: Historical Practices for a Second Museum Age’, Canadian Historical Review 86(1): 83-110.
Price, S. 2002. Primitive Art in Civilized Places, 2nd Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Price, S. 2007. Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Price, S. 2010. ‘Return to the Quai Branly’, Museum Anthropology 33(1): 11-21.
Ravenhill, P.L. 1996. ‘The Passive Object and the Tribal Paradigm: Colonial Museography in French West Africa’ in M.J. Arnoldi et al (eds) African Material Culture. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, pp.265-282.
Rectanus, M.W. 2006. ‘Globalization: Incorporating the Museum’ in S. Macdonald (ed) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.381-397.
Schildkrout, E. 1991. ‘Ambiguous Messages and Ironic Twists: Into the Heart of Africa and The Other Museum’, Museum Anthropology 15(2): 16-23.
Schildkrout,E. & Keim, C.A. (eds) 1998. The Scramble for Art in Central Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shelton, A. 2000. ‘Museum Ethnography: An Imperial Science’ in E. Hallam and B. Street (eds) Cultural Encounters: Representing ‘Otherness’. London: Routledge, pp.155-193.
Shelton, A. 2003. ‘Curating African Worlds’ in L.L. Peers & A.K. Brown (eds) Museums and Source Communities: A Routledge Reader. London: Routledge, pp.181-193.
Sherman, D.J. (ed.) 2008. Museums and Difference. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Spring, C., Barley, N. & Hudson, J. 2001. ‘The Sainsbury African Galleries at the British Museum’, African Arts 34(3): 18-37.
Stanley, N. (ed.) 2007. The Future of Indigenous Museums: Perspectives from the Southwest Pacific. Oxford: Berghahn.
Steiner, C.B. (ed), 1995, Museums and the Politics of Nationalism, special issue of Museum Anthropology 19(2).
Stocking, G.W. 1985. Objects and Others: Essays on Museums and Material Culture. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
White, G.M. (ed). 1997. Public History and National Narrative. Special issue of Museum Anthropology 21(1).

Recommended museum visits
African Worlds Exhibition, Horniman Museum
Africa Gallery (Room 25), British Museum
Living and Dying Gallery (Room 24), British Museum




Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Poland.

In this week’s seminar we explore the relationships between museums, memorials and memory, and examine the recent growth in the phenomenon of ‘memorial museums’ (museums commemorating human rights violations, genocides and other traumatic histories). This needs to be contextualised within a broader societal interest (some argue an obsession) with memory and trauma. As Pierre Nora writes, ‘the imperative of our epoch is … to preserve every indicator of memory’, and the museum, along with the archive, may be regarded as the ‘site of memory’ par excellence. At the same time, Claudia Koonz’s observation that ‘past events seem fixed in the landscape where they occured’ gives us cause to reflect on the boundaries between the memorial museum and the wider mnemonic landscape. We observe how landscapes, too, are preserved, curated and exhibited, and consider how the site of atrocity is re-presented as museum (e.g. the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland). At such sites, issues of presence and absence are prominent; we explore how absence is ‘presenced’ in the memorial museum or is given architectural form as in the case of the ‘voids’ of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, Berlin.

Essential reading
*Huyssen, A. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (Chapter 3: ‘The Voids of Berlin’, pp.49-71)
*Nora, P. 1989. ‘Between Memory & History: Lieux de Mémoire’, Representations 26(1): 7-25.
*Williams, P. 2007. Memorial Museums: The Global Rush to Commemorate Atrocities. Oxford: Berg. (Chapter 2: ‘The Surviving Object: Presence and Absence in Memorial Museums, pp.25-50)

Further reading
Bruner, E.M. 1996. ‘Tourism in Ghana: The Representation of Slavery and the Return of the Black Diaspora.’ American Anthropologist 98(2): 290-304.
Carrier, P. 2000. ‘Places, Politics and the Archiving of Contemporary Memory in Pierre Nora’s Les Lieux de Mémoire’ in S. Radstone (ed.) Memory and Methodology. Oxford: Berg, pp.37-57.
Cole, T. 2004. ‘Nativization and Nationalization: A Comparative Landscape Study of Holocaust Museums in Israel, the US and the UK’, Journal of Israeli History 23(1): 130-145.
Cooke, S. 2001. ‘“Your Story Too?”: The New Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum’ in M. Levy (ed), Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocide, Volume 3: Memory. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp.590-606.
Crane, S.A. (ed), 2000, Museums and Memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Deacon, H. 1998. ‘Remembering Tragedy, Constructing Modernity: Robben Island as National Monument’ in S. Nuttall & C. Coetzee Negotiating the Past: The Making of Memory in South Africa. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.
DeSilvey, C. 2006. ‘Observed Decay: Telling Stories with Mutable Things’, Journal of Material Culture 11(3): 318-338.
Freed, J.I. 1989. ‘The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’, Assemblage 9: 58-79.
Gillis, J.R. 1994. ‘Memory and Identity: The History of a Relationship’ in J.R. Gillis (ed.) Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gouriévidis, L. 2010. The Dynamics of Heritage: History, Memory and the Highland Clearances. Farnham: Ashgate.
Holtschneider, H. 2011. The Holocaust and Representations of Jews: History and Identity in the Museum. London: Routledge.
Hoskins, A. 2003. ‘Signs of the Holocaust: Exhibiting Memory in a Mediated Age’, Media, Culture & Society 25(1): 7-22. (Concerning the Holocaust Exhibition, Imperial War Museum.)
Hughes, R. 2003. ‘The Abject Artefacts of Memory: Photographs from Cambodia’s Genocide’, Media, Culture & Society 25(1): 23-44.
Kavanagh, G. 2000. Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum. London: Leicester University Press.
Koonz, C. 1994. ‘Between Memory and Oblivion: Concentration Camps in German Memory’ in J.R. Gillis (ed.) Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kreamer, C.M. 2006. ‘Shared Heritage, Contested Terrain: Cultural Negotiation and Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle Museum Exhibition “Crossroads of People, Crossroads of Trade”’ in I. Karp et al (eds) Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. pp.435-468.
Ledgerwood, J. 1997. ‘The Cambodian Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes: National Narrative’, Museum Anthropology 21 (1): 82-98.
Lehrer, E., Milton, C.E. & Patterson, M.E. (eds) 2011. Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
Lennon, J.J. & Foley, M. (eds) 2000. Dark Tourism. Andover: Cengage Learning EMEA.
Linenthal, E.T., 2001, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum. New York: Columbia University Press.
Logan, W. & Reeves, K. (eds) 2008. Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing with Difficult Heritage. Abingdon: Routledge.
Macdonald, S. 2009. Difficult Heritage: Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremburg and Beyond. Abingdon: Routledge.
Macdonald, S. 2013. Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today. Abingdon: Routledge.
Maleuvre, D. 1999. Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Marcuse, H. 2001. Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933-2001. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nanda, S. 2004. ‘South African Museums and the Creation of a New National Identity’, American Anthropologist 106 (2): 379-385.
Patraka, V.M. 1996. ‘Performing Presence, Absence and Historical Memory at US Holocaust Museums’ in E. Diamond (ed.) Performance and Cultural Politics. New York: Routledge, pp.89-107.
Radley, A. 1990. ‘Artefacts, Memory and a Sense of the Past’ in D. Middleton and D. Edwards (eds) Collective Remembering. London: Sage, pp.46-59.
Schneider, B. 1999. Daniel Libeskind: Jewish Museum Berlin. Munich: Prestel.
Stier, O.B. 2005. ‘Different Trains: Holocaust Artifacts and the Ideologies of Remembrance’, Holocaust & Genocide Studies 19(1): 81-106.
Young, J.E. 1993. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. New Haven: Yale Uni Press.
Young, J.E. 2000. At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture. New Haven: Yale University Press. (Chapter 6: ‘Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin’)

Recommended museum visits
Holocaust Exhibition, Imperial War Museum




District Six Museum, Cape Town.

Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values, the institutions of which are – in theory – distinct from those of state or market (e.g. charities, NGOs, community groups, etc.). We have already begun to explore the social roles of museums in our discussions of the museum as an institution. But whereas the Foucauldian reading of public museums as institutions is concerned with ‘disciplining’ and ‘civilising’ audiences, in this seminar we are concerned with museums as a resource in community empowerment and social advocacy. Drawing on case examples such as the Tenement Museum in New York and District Six Museum in Cape Town, we examine how communities and their advocates have, in the words of Ruth Abram, ‘harnessed’ their histories to effect social transformations and promote social responsibility. In place of the didactic space of the public museum, these museums are reformulated as a dialogic spaces, which act as forums for civic engagement in contemporary issues. Building on this discussion, we consider the broader capacity of museums in civil society strengthening and development contexts.

Essential reading
*Abram, R.J. 2005. ‘History is as History Does: The Evolution of a Mission-Driven Museum’ in R.R. Janes & G.T. Conaty (eds) Looking Reality in the Eye: Museums and Social Responsibility. Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press, pp.19-42.
*Kreps, C.F. 2003. Liberating Culture: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Museums, Curation and Heritage Preservation. London: Routledge. (Chapter 5: ‘Museums, Culture and Development’, pp.114-144)
*Rassool, C. 2006. ‘Community Museums, Memory Politics, and Social Transformation in South Africa: Histories, Possibilities, and Limits’ in I. Karp et al (eds) Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. pp.286-321.

Further reading
Abram, R.J. 2002. ‘Harnessing the Power of History’ in R. Sandell (ed.), Museums, Society, Inequality. London: Routledge.
Ardouin, C.D. 1996. ‘Culture, Museums, and Development in Africa’ in P.G. Altbach & S.M. Hassan (eds), The Muse of Modernity: Essays on Culture as Development in Africa. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
Barrett, J. 2011. Museums and the Public Sphere. Oxford: Wiley.
Beyers, C. 2008. ‘The Cultural Politics of “Community” and Citizenship in the District Six Museum’, Anthropologia 50(2): 359-373.
Cooper, K.C. & Sandoval, N.I. 2006. Living Homes for Cultural Expression: North American Native Perspectives on Creating Community Museums. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution. See
Crooke, E.M. 2006. ‘Museums and Community’ in S. Macdonald (ed) A Companion to Museum Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.170-185.
Crooke, E.M. 2007. Museums and Community: Ideas, Issues and Challenges. Abingdon: Routledge.
Edwards, M. 2009. Civil Society, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Fuller, N.J. 1992. ‘The Museum as a Vehicle for Community Empowerment: The Ak-Chin Indian Community Ecomuseum Project’ in I. Karp, C.M. Kraemer & S.D. Lavine (eds) Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp.327-365.
Golding, V. 2009. Learning at the Museum Frontiers: Identity, Race and Power. Farnham: Ashgate.
Golding, V. & Modest, W. (eds) 2013. Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections and Collaboration. London: Bloomsbury.
Janes, R.R. 2009. Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse? Abingdon: Routledge.
Janes, R.R. & Conaty, G.T. (eds). 2005. Looking Reality in the Eye: Museums and Social Responsibility. Calgary, Alberta: University of Calgary Press.
Layne, V. 2008. ‘The District Six Museum: An Ordinary People’s Place’, The Public Historian 30(1): 53-62. [Senate House Library]
Karp, I., Kraemer, C.M. & Lavine, S.D. (eds) Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Kavanagh, H., 2000, Dream Spaces: Memory and the Museum. Leicester: Leicester University Press.
Kreps, C. 2008. ‘Appropriate Museology in Theory and Practice’, International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship 23(1): 23-41.
Mceachern, C. 1998. ‘Mapping the Memories: Politics, Place and Identity in the District Six Museum, Cape Town’, Social Identities 4(3): 499-521.
Message, K. 2009. ‘New Directions for Civil Renewal in Britain: Social Capital and Culture for All?’, International Journal of Cultural Studies 12(3): 257-278.
Rassool, C. 2007. ‘Memory and the Politics of History in the District Six Museum’ in N. Murray et al (eds), Desire Lines: Space, Memory and Identity in the Post-Apartheid City. London: Routledge.
Rassool, C. & Prosalendis, S. (eds) 2001. Recalling Community in Cape Town: Creating and Curating the District Six Museum. Cape Town: District Six Museum. (Peggy Delport: ‘Signposts for Retrieval: A Visual Framework for Enabling Memory of Place and Time’, pp.31-46).
Sandell, R., 2007, Museums, Prejudice and the Reframing of Difference. London: Routledge.
Sandell, R. (ed.) 2002. Museums, Society, Inequality. London: Routledge.
Sandell, R. 1998. ‘Museums as Agents of Social Inclusion’, International Journal of Museum Management & Curatorship 17(4): 401-418.
Ševčenko, L. 2004. The Power of Place: How Historic Sites can Engage Citizens in Human Rights Issues. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Victims of Torture. See
Ševčenko, L. & Russell-Ciardi, M. 2008. ‘Foreword: Sites of Conscience: Opening Historic Sites for Civic Dialogue’, The Public Historian 30(1): 9-15. [course Moodle site]
Sietz, S. 1999. A Tenement Story: The History of 97 Orchard Street and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. New York: Tenement Museum.
Silverman, L. 2009. The Social Work of Museums. London: Routledge.

Recommended museum visit
19 Princelet Street




Smithsonian Institute, Lakota Winter Counts online exhibition/archive.

Museums have always been bound up with techologies (the introduction of electric lights, for example, transformed the museum). In this seminar we examine the impact of digital technologies on museums, both within physical gallery spaces and on the internet. We challenge some of the hyperbole surrounding the idea of the ‘virtual museum’ (though we can also explore some – e.g. or, and, engaging with Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, consider issues of ‘authenticity’, ‘aura’ and ‘mediation’ in the ‘age of digital reproduction’. A particular focus of the seminar is to consider the recontextualisation of objects in museum collections enabled through digital technologies, and how museums’ online resources both improve exchange of information among diverse knowledge communities but also confront audiences with a surplus of data which they are forced to navigate. We consider how digital technologies bring about a convergence of ‘the museum’ and ‘the archive’. We also address issues of digital repatriation, ownership, knowledge architectures, and problems associated with the digital divide.
Alive Stevenson, curator at the Petrie Museum, will lead the second half of this session using objects from the Petrie collection to discuss the illuminating contradictions and quandaries that accompany the curation of both digital and material casts and replicas.

Essential reading
*McTavish, L. 2006. ‘Visiting the Virtual Museum: Art and Experience Online’ in J. Marstine (ed.) New Museum Theory and Practice. Oxford: Blackwell. pp.226-246.
*Parry, R. 2007. Recoding the Museum: Digital Heritage and the Technologies of Change. London: Routledge. (Chapter 3: ‘Disaggregating the Collection’, pp.32-57)
* Srinivasan, R., Enote, J., Becvar, K.M. & Boast, R. 2009. ‘Critical and Reflective Uses of New Media Technologies in Tribal Museums’, Museum Management & Curatorship 24(2): 169-189.

Further reading
Basu, P. Forthcoming. ‘Reanimating Cultural Heritage: Digital Curatorship, Knowledge Networks and Social Transformation in Sierra Leone’ in A. Coombes and R.B. Phillips (eds) Museum Transformations: Art, Culture, History. Oxford: Blackwell. (available via Moodle)
Benjamin, W. 1999. ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ in H. Arendt (ed.) Walter Benjamin: Illuminations. London: Pimlico, pp.211-244.
Boast, R., Bravo, M. & Srinivasan, R. 2007. ‘Return to Babel: Emergent Diversity, Digital Resources, and Local Knowledge’, The Information Society 23(5): 395-403.
Cameron, F. & Kenderdine, S. (eds), 2007. Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Christen, K. 2006. ‘Ara Irititja: Protecting the Past, Accessing the Future – Ingidenous Memories in a Digital Age. A Digital Archive Project of the Pitjantjatjara Council’, Museum Anthropology 29(1): 56-60.
Christen, K. 2011. ‘Opening Archives: Respectful Repatriation’, The American Archivist 74(1): 185-210.
Ernst, W. 2000. ‘Archi(ve)textures of Museology’ in S.A. Crane, S.A. (ed), Museums and Memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp.17-34.
Geismar, H. and Mohns, W. 2011. ‘Social Relationships and Digital Relationships: Rethinking the Database at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.), Special Issue 2011, S133-S155.
Gumbrecht, H.U. & Marrinan, M. (eds) 2003. Mapping Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Digital Age. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Harrison, R. 2009. ‘Excavating Second Life: Cyber-Archaeologies, Heritage and Virtual Communities’, Journal of Material Culture 14(1): 75-106.
Henning, M. 2006. Museums, Media and Cultural Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press. (Chapter 5: ‘Archive’, pp.129-155)
Isaac, G. 2008. ‘Technology Becomes the Object: The Use of Electronic Media at the National Museum of the American Indian’, Journal of Material Culture 13(3): 287-310.
Kalay, Y.E. et al (eds) 2008. New Heritage: New Media and Cultural Heritage. London: Routledge.
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Recommended online museum visits
Brooklyn Museum –
The Virtual Smithsonian (High Bandwidth version) –
The Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum (requires you to have a Second Life avatar!) –
The Smithsonian Lakota Winter Counts exhibition (Flash version) –



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