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Module HTH-2156:
Museum - management, curation

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Raimund Karl

Overall aims and purpose

This module is an introduction to Museum Studies and aims to introduce students to the central questions of curatorship, museology and museum management. We will examine the history of the development of the museum as a cultural institution, the role of museums in modern society, and contemporary theory and critiques of museums. We will look at the different types of museums and at how museums are managed, collections curated, conserved, made accessible and presented to the public. We will look at the various methods and practices used in museum learning, and at how exhibitions are designed. As an important part of this module, we will visit museums during field trips and work in a museum context (using the School’s teaching collections, housed in Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery Bangor, or other collections held by GMAGB), engaging directly with the key resources required for successfully running a museum: collections, information, infrastructure and people.

Course content

Practical skills: Curating collections, designing exhibitions and/or museum learning programmes, strategically managing (museum) resources

Theoretical knowledge: Diachronic and synchronic knowledge of the evolution of the role of museums in society, of key resources in museum management, of methods, principles and practices of collections management and curation, exhibition design and museum learning programmes.

Assessment Criteria


A- - A*: An excellent student will have produced a particularly innovative or creative exhibition design and display, demonstrating a well-developed ability to design a simple exhibition and utilize key museum resources. S/he will also have produced an original or unusually creative essay, demonstrating outstanding knowledge and understanding of aspects of museology, collections management, curation, exhibition design or museum learning.


D- - D+: A threshold student will have produced an exhibition design and display, demonstrating a basic ability to design a simple exhibition and utilize key museum resources, though with some flaws. S/he will also have produced a satisfactory, if somewhat flawed or incomplete essay, demonstrating basic knowledge and understanding of aspects of museology, collections management, curation, exhibition design or museum learning.


C- - B+: A good student will have produced a competent exhibition design and display, demonstrating a sound ability to design an exhibition and utilize key museum resources. S/he will also have produced a competent essay, demonstrating solid knowledge and understanding of aspects of museology, collections management, curation, exhibition design or museum learning.

Learning outcomes

  1. Ability to design basic elements of an exhibitions.

  2. Ability to conduct basic museum collections management tasks.

  3. Understanding of the methods and principles of exhibition design and museum learning.

  4. Understanding of the principles of museum collection management and curation.

  5. Understanding how these key resources are effectively and strategically utilised to achieve the museum’s aims and objectives.

  6. Knowledge of the key resources required for operating museums.

  7. Knowledge of the historical development of museums and their collections and the roles of museums in contemporary society.

Assessment Methods

Teaching and Learning Strategy


11 hours of lectures, one hour per week starting week 1

Private study 170

9 hours of seminars, one hour per week starting week 2 and ending in week 11

External visit

10 hours of field trips and Museum practicals (blocked on one or two suitable dates during the semester)


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • problem solving to develop solutions to understand the past
  • understanding the complexity of change over time; in specific contexts and chronologies
  • being sensitive to the differences, or the "otherness" of the past, and the difficulty to using it as a guide to present or future action
  • being sensitive to the role of perceptions of the past in contemporary cultures
  • producing logical and structured arguments supported by relevant evidence
  • planning, designing, executing and documenting a programme of research, working independently
  • marshalling and critically appraising other people's arguments, including listening and questioning
  • demonstrating a positive and can-do approach to practical problems
  • demonstrating an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk taking
  • preparing effective written communications for different readerships
  • making effective and appropriate forms of visual presentation
  • making effective and appropriate use of relevant information technology
  • making critical and effective use of information retrieval skills using paper-based and electronic resources
  • collaborating effectively in a team via experience of working in a group


Reading list

Alexander, Edward P., Museums in Motion, An Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums, AASLH, 1996 Anderson, Gail (ed). Reinventing the Museum. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2004 Archibald, Robert R. The New Town Square: Museums and Communities in Transition. Walnut Creek, CA, 2004 Bourdieu, Pierre. The Love of Art: European Art Museums and Their Public. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997. Cameron, Fiona and Sarah Kenderdine, eds., Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse (Media in Transition), The MIT Press, 2007 (digital version) Carbonell, Bettina, Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts, Blackwell Publishing, 2003 Carr, David. The Promise of Cultural Institutions. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2003 Dædalus: America's Museums, Volume 128, Issue 3. Cambridge: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1999 Cuno, James (ed.). Whose Culture? The promise of museums and the debate over antiquities. Princeton: University Press, 2009 Din, Herminia and Phyllis Hecht, eds, The Digital Museum: A Think Guide, Amer Assn of Museums, 2007 Falk, John H. and Lynn D. Dierking, Learning from Museums: Visitor Experience and the Making of Meaning. AASLH, 2000 Genoways, Hugh H., Museum Philosophy for the Twenty-first Century, Rowman Altamira, 2006 Glaser, Jane and Artemis Zenetou, Mastering Civic Engagement. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2002 Gurian, Elaine Heumann. Civilizing the Museum. London and New York: Routledge, 2006 Hirzy, Ellen Cochran,ed., Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension of Museums. American Association of Museums, 1992 Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2000 Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge. London and New York: Routledge, 1992 Karp, Ivan and Steven D. Lavine, eds. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press in association with the American Association of Museums, 1991 Karp, Ivan, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynne Szwaja, and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto (eds), Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations. Duke University Press, 2006 Karp, Ivan, Christine Mullen Kreamer, and Steven D. Lavine, Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture. Washington , D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992 Knell, Simon J, Sheila Watson and Suzannne MacLeod, Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed, London and New York, Routledge, 2007 Marty Paul F., Museum Informatics: People, Information, and Technology in Museums, Routledge, 2008 Phillips, Ruth B. and Christopher B. Steiner, Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 (Digital version) Pitman, Bonnie (ed). The Presence of Mind: Museums and the Spirit of Learning. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums, 1999 Sandell, Richard (ed). Museums, Society, Inequality. London and New York: Routledge, 2002 Seitel, Peter, ed., Safeguarding Traditional Cultures: A Global Assessment. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 2001 Schwarzer, Marjorie, Riches, Rivals and Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 2006 Weil, Stephen. A Cabinet of Curiosities: Inquiries into Museums and their Prospects. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: