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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.

Themes that will be discussed in depth are: museums and society, materiality, collecting, classification, representation, authenticity, the digital, ethics, and restitution. Issues of inclusion will be extensively discussed throughout the course.

This course is deliberately planned in block 1 of the first semester to give MA students a sound, also theoretical, basis in Museum Studies, and to give them the instruments to tackle issues they will encounter later in the year.

Course set-up

The main set-up will be lectures, but during every lecture there will be ample time for discussions. If possible there will also be one assignment based on a museum visit.

Course objectives

Introduction to some basic problems and issues in collection-based research and contemporary museum issues. These issues will be treated within a societal framework. A museum is not an isolated entity devoid of contemporary social and political reality (as was often thought until a few decades ago). Students should be made aware of this. And this attitude should further develop during the course.
In addition, the students will be introduced to new challenging ways of museum and collection-based research.


  • Developing a sound critical attitude towards museums and collection-based activities;

  • Giving students a broad mindset, the basic concepts and tools to tackle cultural and museum issues, within a societal framework.


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.

Course load

  • 14 hours of lectures + discussion (1 ec);

  • 250 pages of literature (2 ec);

  • 2 paper assignments of 1 ec each (2 ec).

Assessment method

  • 2 papers of 1,800-2,000 words each. Each paper is worth 50% of the final grade.

Both results should be a pass. A retake of one paper, with a change of subject eg., is possible.

In the papers, the proper use of prescribed literature and correct citations/references will be checked.

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.

Reading list

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

  • Additional readings will be announced.


Registration in uSis is mandatory. You can register for this course until 5 days before the first class.

Registration in uSis automatically leads to enrollment in the corresponding Brightspace module. Therefore you do not need to enroll in Brightspace, but make sure to register for this course in uSis.

You are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time. The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, you are not required to do this in uSis.

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.