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Museums, Audiences & Interpretation - ARC00013M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Stella Basinyi
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The module will cover how museums engage with their audiences. Interpreting the past to the public has moved on from simply telling people facts about the past. We now expect to enter into a conversation about the past, and about which pasts people are interested. Using new digital media is part of this, and enables us to reach new audiences who might not consider visiting a museum in person. Understanding our actual and potential audiences, how and why they engage with the past, are now an important part of the museum profession.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Critically consider the role of interpretation in museum practice
  • Introduce the role of evaluation in interpretation planning and the appropriate use of different evaluation methods
  • Introduce issues of participatory practice and community consultation in the curation, research, display and interpretation of artefacts and collections.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of different approaches to interpretation design, including the central role of messages, audiences, media and evaluation
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of current policy initiatives in heritage and museum interpretation, such as access and social inclusion.
  • Evaluate critically the utility of interpretive and educational media and museum displays.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the key tensions around inclusion and tokenism in relation to participatory approaches in museums
  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems relating to ethical concerns in interpreting dark and contested heritage

Module content

The module will begin by exploring heritage interpretation theory and the importance of developing clear key messages, knowing your audience, setting clear goals for your interpretative offer and considering how the success of your interpretation can best be evidenced through evaluation. We will consider how interpretation can engage a range of different senses in encounters with museum spaces and objects. We will end by thinking about the future of museums, including the idea that perhaps the museum might become more like a shopping mall!

Learning in this module will be supported by field trips to museums in the North of England, providing encounters with cutting-edge interpretive offers in the sector. These will serve as inspiration for you to create your own interpretation plan for a museum or heritage site.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Interpretation plan
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

None

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Kidd, J (2014) Museums in the New Mediascape: Transmedia, Participation, Ethics. Farnham: Ashgate.

Simon, N (2010) The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz: Museum 2.0: http://www.participatorymuseum.org/read/

Slack, S. (2020) Interpreting Heritage: A Guide to Planning and Practice. Abingdon: Routledge.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.