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Art on Show


When and why did it become important that ancient and modern sculpture and painting should be put on show to the public? What impact does the exhibition of a sculpture or painting have on its status? And how did the evolution of the museum and art gallery help constitute the nascent disciplines of art history and classical archaeology?

Art on Show addresses the debates surrounding the display of art in nineteenth-century Britain (although students with interests outside of this period and location are welcome to pursue these in the coursework essay). Seminars will assess recent discussions in museum studies, and debate their application to selected nineteenth-century case studies. Institutions to be examined include the British Museum, the V&A, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace, Whitechapel Gallery, Sir John Soaneā€™s museum, the Walker Art Gallery (Liverpool), Manchester City Art Gallery, and Leeds Art Gallery.


Preliminary reading

  • Alpers, S. 'The museum as a way of seeing' in Karp, I. and Lavine, S. Exhibiting Cultures (Washington DC and London, 1991) pp.25-32.
  • Bennett, T. The birth of the museum: history, theory, politics ( London and New York, 1995).
  • Carbonell, B.M. (ed.) Museum Studies. An anthology of contexts ( Oxford, 2004).
  • Pointon, M (ed.) Art apart: art institutions and ideology across England and North America (Manchester, 1994).
  • Preziosi, D. and Farago, C. (eds.) Grasping the World. The idea of the museum (Aldershot, 2004).
  • Siegel, J. (ed.), The Emergence of the Modern Museum. An anthology of nineteenth-century sources (Oxford, 2008).
  • Taylor, B. Art for the Nation. Exhibitions and the London Public 1747-2001 (New Brunswick, 1999).
  • Woodson-Boulton, A. 'Victorian Museums and Victorian Society' History Compass 6.1 (2008) pp.109-146.
Great Court at the British Museum

Module information

  • Module title
    Art on Show
  • Module number
  • Convenor

For postgraduates