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History and theory of museums and collections: Museum theory


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree obtained.


In this course, students explore a range of different approaches and issues in cultural politics and cultural theory as relevant to modern museum practices. Issues discussed will include post-colonial and post-structural responses to the museum as an institution; the artistic practice of institutional critique and its (paradoxical) absorption into museum practice; and the deployment of ritual and performance theories to analyse how museums function.
We will read authors such as Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, James Clifford, Tony Bennett, and Anthony Shelton, among others. The theoretical part of the course will be supported by discussions of case studies from South- and Meso-America, Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Course objectives

  • Thorough knowledge of relevant theoretical approaches;

  • Ability to critically analyse texts about the cultural field;

  • Ability to apply cultural theories to museums and collections.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.
Exam dates can be found in the examination schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Discussions.

Assessment method

  • Written exam;

  • Short paper.

Reading list

  • T. Bennett, The Birth of Museums. (1995);

  • Articles, 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 mw dr L.N.K. van Broekhoven.