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Museums, Collections and Society


Admission requirements

  • Bachelor's degree obtained;

  • Admission to the Master Archaeology or Master Art History programme.


The role, function and purpose of museums in contemporary society has been the center of much debate during the past decades. This course contextualises that debate by focusing on important concepts and issues in museum theory and museum practices.

Through a range of case studies, this course examines the various social roles museums take and how these have changed over the course of decades, if not centuries. The course will focus especially on the societal impact of processes of collecting and exhibiting, paying attention to issues of colonialism, in/exclusion, and (national) identity.
Museums of anthropology/history/archaeology will be at the heart of this course, more so than art museums.

This course is shared between students of Archaeology and Art History. The aim of this set-up is to bring together individuals with different (disciplinary) backgrounds, to discuss questions of representation and display.

Course set-up

The course consists of seven 2-hour lectures, which include time for discussion as well. Depending on arrangements to be made with museums (regarding free entrance) museum visits will be part of the course as well.

Course objectives

  • To develop a critical understanding of museum processes and collection-based activities;

  • To give students a broad mindset, the basic concepts and tools to tackle cultural and museum issues, within a societal framework;

  • To describe the ways in which the meaning of museums is molded by the society in which they function.


Course schedule details can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, including discussion.

Assessment method

  • Paper of 1,800-2,000 words (100%).

Students can choose whether they prefer to focus on object biographies or exhibition analysis.

Assessment deadlines

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in MyTimetable.
Log in with your ULCN account, and add this course using the 'Add timetable' button. To view the assessment deadline(s), make sure to select the course with a code ending in T and/or R.

The final paper is due three weeks after the end of the course.

Reading list

  • Bennett, Tony. 1995. The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. Taylor and Francis: London;

  • Additional readings will be announced.


For lectures, tutorials, and exams, enrolment through MyStudymap is mandatory.
You are also required to confirm your exam in MyStudymap. No confirmation = no participation!

General information about registration can be found on the Course and Exam Enrolment page.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

All information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).


For more information about this course, please contact dr. M.E. (Martin) Berger.


Compulsory attendance.