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Debates in Museum Theory & Practice - ARC00055M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Harald Fredheim
  • Credit value: 5 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2019-20

Module summary

Museum practice is a much debated and continually changing field. This module will look at current debates and issues facing museums. We will explore how museums have implemented the often contradictory aims of impressing and educating visitors. A key curatorial skill is how to design displays that meet these aims in ways which keep to professional standards and yet meet the needs of identified audiences.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • To enhance awareness of current issues in museums
  • To explore interrelationships between museological theory and practice

Module learning outcomes

Students will:

  • gain increased understanding of current issues in museum theory and practice
  • enhance their skills in discussion and debate
  • develop transferable skills in analysing academic and popular texts
  • enhance their skills in examining objects

Module content

We will begin with an exploration of the history of museums, their design and their current theoretical basis, not only as sites of wonder (with the wow! factor) but also as heterotopia: separate, uncomfortable worlds that can disturb our understanding of the world outside. We will then look at how museums can be deliberately or unintentionally provocative (the oxymoron museum). We will also look at how museums have often been experimental in how they display the past. The final sessions will place this into the context of the different codes of professional ethics they have to follow and how they have set about categorising their audiences.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be available in 4 weeks 

Indicative reading

Lindauer, M (2006) The critical museum visitor. In J Marstine (ed.) New museum theory and practice. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 203–224. 

Marstine, J (2006) Introduction. In J Marstine (ed.) New museum theory and practice. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 1-36.

Moser, S (2010) The devil is in the detail: museum displays and the creation of knowledge. Museum Anthropology, 33 (1), 22–32.

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.