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Contemporary Issues in Museums - ARC00134M

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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
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

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 and heritage organisations are engaging with these debates and the various media they use to do so. A key skill we will be developing in this module is how to negotiate responses to contested issues as a team in order to pragmatically and constructively respond to stakeholders and move current debates forward.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims to:

  • Consider the origins and histories of museums and developments in museology.
  • Enhance awareness of current issues in museums
  • Explore the range of media museums and heritage organisations use to engage in these issues and how to use them effectively

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module the students should:

  • Have a comprehensive understanding of the history and development of museums
  • Be able to demonstrate a critical awareness of current problems in museum theory and practice
  • Be able to evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline, and present their ideas through discussion and debate
  • Be able to develop critiques of current research in museums and, where appropriate, propose new contributions to public debates

Module content

This module will introduce and explore current issues in museum theory and practice. Heritage organisations and practitioners are increasingly challenged to take a stand on a range of pressing social issues. We will consider how the sector is responding to current challenges through a range of media and how to productively use these media to move the debates forward. We will begin by considering what museums are, as well as their role in society. We will then cover a current issue in the sector each week, through lectures and small-group discussions. You will then select an issue to explore in more detail and present an intervention designed to move the conversation forward constructively, using at least one of the media we have covered in the module.


Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
Pre-recorded presentation
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Janes, Robert R. and Sandell, Richard (eds.). 2020. Museum Activism. Abingdon: Routledge.

Marstine, J. (ed.). 2006. New museum theory and practice. Oxford: Blackwell.

Macdonald, S. (ed.). 2011. A Companion to Museum Studies. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

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.