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Critical museology


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

BA-degree obtained.


This course examines the contested nature of current museum and cultural heritage theory and their critical examination through case studies. The first block opens with an intensive two-week course where the representational role of museums in nation building is considered, and their entanglement in localising and globalising processes; it explores the museum’s relationship to memory and commemoration; its social roles and responsibilities; and its extension into digital domains. Building on a tradition of ‘critical museology’, the course seeks to provoke students into questioning what a museum is and does, and what it can be. It seeks to provide the broader historical and theoretical context to enable students to engage critically with contemporary museum practice.
During the course students get acquainted with the institutional identity, mission and staff of the National Museum of Ethnology (NME) and at the National Museum of Antiquities (NMA). The students are to write a think piece on a later to be assigned topic; and present and discuss it during class.
In the following week, an intensive seminar will take place where internationally renowned museum directors and senior staff are invited to talk about diverse museum tasks and competences in greater detail: e.g. organisational systems; collection management; education; communication; research; and the national and global networks in which todays museums operate.
In the course of the seminar students learn to think and act beyond the usual accounts and definitions of museums and cultural heritage, and be able to critically appreciate ‘alternative’ conceptualisations of museums and understand the complexities involved in the globalisation of museological practices. The seminar is followed by two weeks of courses where assignments and literature are discussed.

Course objectives

  • Equip students with an understanding and a working appreciation of both theoretical and practical approaches to key issues in the field of cultural heritage and museum anthropology;

  • Have an overview of the resources, tasks and competences of today’s museums and the larger networks in which they operate;

  • Ability to identify organisational structures and functions within museums, and question their effectiveness;

  • Ability to discuss and debate the concept and functions of the museum;

  • Employ theoretically-informed perspectives to comment upon established museological practices;

  • Demonstrate a familiarity with, and express opinions about, current museological debates.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Tutorial;

  • Seminar.

Assessment method

  • Presentation and performance;

  • Written assignments about the seminar readings in the form of a think piece;

  • Final paper.

Reading list

To be determined.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact dr. Mariana Francozo.