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Early Modern Cultures of Collecting


Admission requirements

See Teaching and Examination Regulations


This course is part of the MA specialization Museums and Collections, and will introduce students to the history and theory of Early Modern collections and collecting cultures.

In the Early Modern period, Kunst- & Wunderkammern and other collections of naturalia and artificialia were crucial in the shaping, production and transmission of knowledge in Europe. We will discuss key concepts (such as “wonder”, “curiosity”, “emblematic world view”, “exotic” and others) and look at contemporary sources pertinent to the understanding of the culture of collecting and research in this field. We will focus on textual and visual images of collections and objects of knowledge and their conceptual, historical and iconographical meanings and functions.

Course objectives

At the end of the course:

  • students can demonstrate a critical understanding of the history and theory of early modern collecting;

  • students will understand and trace the development in the visualisation of collections and objects of knowledge;

  • students will be able to formulate a set of research questions and hypotheses on a chosen subject in this field


  • students will present their research in both a presentation and research paper.

  • Research Master students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (6000 words excluding annotations and bibliography instead of 5000 words).


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Excursion (to Special Collections of Leiden University and/or nearby museum)

Assessment method


  • Class participation and individual presentation (20%);

  • Research paper, 5000 words (80%).


The individual presentation and the research paper should be a 6.0 or higher to pass the course. The final grade for the course is established by determination of the weighted average.


The re-sit consists of two parts: a rewrite of the paper (80%) and/or an alternative assignment (20%).

Inspection and feedback

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.

Reading list

  • Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge, Routledge: London & New York 1992 and reprints.

All other reading materials will made availaible via Brightspace.


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 the study adviser

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal