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Museum Matters I: Politics and Ethics of Museum Collecting


Admission requirements

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


Museums are powerful and influential institutions in their ability to shape knowledge through their collections and exhibitions. Besides being educational bodies of authority, they are also becoming sites of infotainment in their quest to attract and please the public.

In this seminar we will study the politics of museum practice in modern times through various themes which are connected to current issues and controversies. Questions, such as how museums contribute to our identity and cultural memory and whose voice is heard in the museum, shall be scrutinized. We will examine the politics and ethics of collecting in a wide variety of museums and analyze the changing position of the museum in a globalized world. Furthermore, the museum as medium will be studied and the narratives of the collections will be analyzed. Special attention will be given to representation and canonization in museums.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • gain knowledge of museum theory and politics of museum practice in modern times;

  • gain insight into current issues and controversies concerning museums;

  • practice their communicative skills in weekly debates and in the presentation of their own reseach topic;

  • develop their research skills in formulating a relevant research question and writing a paper on this subject of their own choice.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar.

Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two seminars, provided they present a valid reason beforehand. Students who have missed more than two seminars will have to aply to the Examination Board of the Ma Arts and Culture in order to obtain permission to further follow and complete the course.

Course Load

Total course load for the course 10 ec x 28 hours = 280 hours:

  • attending seminar: 13 × 3 hours = 39 hours;

  • preparation seminar (incl. reading, museum visits, weekly assignments): 8 × 13 hours = 104 hours;

  • attending and contributing to symposium: 7 hours;

  • research and writing paper: 130 hours.

Assessment method

  • Active participation in class and weekly assignments (20%);

  • Oral presentation (20%);

  • Paper, 5000 words (60%).


The final grade is the average of the three grades (20%, 20%, 60%). A student passes the class if the average is a 6.0 or higher and obtained at least a 6.0 for the paper.


If the average is below 6.0 the paper can be re-written (60%).


  • Please note that if you do not hand in your essay before the first deadline, your essay will be considered as the resit.

  • For the time tables exams 2017-2018 see; Timetable

Exam Review

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.


Blackboard will be used for special announcements, assignments and required weekly reading. Students will be expected to post questions (weekly) and assignments in Discussion Board.

Reading list

Reading list will be posted on Blackboard.


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.


  • Fieldtrips and guest lectures are an important part of the course. Students will be expected to make frequent visits to museums;

  • In the specialisation Museums and Collections of the MA Arts and Culture, this course focuses on contemporary practices of the museum as sites of knowledge production and platform of discussion and debate regarding issues of cultural value, identity and memory. As a free component course it also holds value for the specialisation Art of the Contemporary World and World Art Studies.

Contact information

Mw. Dr. M.A. (Nana) Leigh
Administrations Office Huizinga