nl en

Critical museology


Admission requirements

BA degree in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


This course is divided into two sections: Museum History and Critical Museology.

The first section focuses on museum history. The European perspective on museum history gives a critical survey of collecting practices and the history of museums from antiquity till today. Collecting is a typically human property and the reasons for indulging in this practice may vary from scientific curiosity to pure pleasure or even financial gain.
Theoretical anthropological and medical models will be used to explain this specific human behaviour. Special attention will be given to the radical transition from private collections to modern museums, which occurred around 1800. To illustrate the diversity of the ‘modern’ 19th century museums you will visit various museums in Leiden and other cities.

The second part of the course builds on a tradition of ‘critical museology’, and seeks to provoke students into questioning what a museum is and does, and what it can be.
The aim of this part of the course is to familiarise students with the main current debates within critical museology, and particularly new forms museums have been developing to engage with communities in a broad sense. It takes a global approach, drawing from examples in Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Through a critical analysis of case studies and literature we will explore topics such as the politics of representation and self-representation, issues of authority, control and inclusion/exclusion, claims to repatriation, the critical perspective of audiences, communities and the nation-state, post-colonialism and de-colonisation, among others.

Course objectives

  • Understanding and a working appreciation of both theoretical and practical approaches to key issues in the field of museum history and museum anthropology;

  • Ability to demonstrate a familiarity with, and express informed opinions about, current museological debates;

  • Ability to critically assess literature and argue one’s position;

  • Ability to maintain a discussion on the basis of the assigned literature.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Discussion groups.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 28 hours of lectures (2 ec);

  • 250 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • Final paper of ca. 1,800 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Mid-term exam with open essay questions (50%);

  • Final paper (50%).

Compensation between the grades is allowed, provided that the minimum grade is at least 4.5.
A retake is possible for both the exam and the final paper.

All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the MA and MSc examination schedule.

Reading list

  • MacDonald, S. (ed.), (2006) Blackwell Companion to Museum Studies. London: Blackwell [selection of chapters];

  • Other literature will be indicated at the beginning of the course.


Registration for the course or the exam is not required.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. R.B. Halbertsma or dr. M. de Campos Francozo.


  • The maximum number of participants for this course is 30. Students within the heritage department have priority, followed by students within the Faculty of Archaeology.

  • Compulsory attendance.