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Museums, Memory and Identity


Admission requirements

Students who are not enrolled in the Master Arts and Culture should contact the Coordinator of Studies in order to enroll.
Students registered in the (Research) Master Arts and Culture: Museums and Collections take priority.


The role of museums in the contruction of personal and collective memory, and thus in the (re)building of identities, has been widely acknowledged in museum and cultural studies. Like monuments and memorials, museums long presented a scripted, authorative narrative of the past – yet these sites no longer form the only space for memorialisation. Both the urban and natural environments have become places for commemoration, remembering and memory-making. A new, hybrid genre, the “memorial-museum” has been introduced as a hybrid mix of (built) heritage site, memorial and museum.

In this course, we focus on the historical and contemporary ways in which museums have contributed to our identity and (cultural) memory. We critically review scholarly, political and societal ideas on the formation of memory and identity, and we scrutinize current debates on colonialism and multiculturalism to determine which voices, histories and memories are represented in the museum.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • Be able to critically review concepts important in museum studies, memory studies and cultural studies regarding museums, memorials and heritage sites.

  • Be demonstrable skilled in formulating a research question within the framework of this course, and putting together a relevant bibliography.

  • Be able to independently research a museological/ art historical topic; to critically review the relevant scholarly literature and primary sources; to present research results both in a presentation (15 mins) and a written report (c. 5000 words).

  • Research Master students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (6000 words excluding annotations and bibliography instead of 5000 words).


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar.

Assessment method


  • Assignments, research proposal and presentation (20%)

  • Paper of 5000 words (80%)


The final grade is the average of the two grades (20% and 80%) A student passes the class if the weighted average is a 6.0 or higher (marks under 5.0 are not allowed) and the paper is a 6.0 or higher.


The re-sit consists of two parts: there is a re-sit for the paper (80%) and/or an alternative assignment (20%).

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Readings will be made available via Brightspace.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: Please see the website Study in Leiden for information on how to apply/register for this course.

Students who are not in the MA Arts and Culture programme, but who would like to take this course as an optional course, please contact Drs. E.C.(Els) Munter the co-ordinator of studies.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Laurie Kalb Cosmo