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The Museums of the Future: Ethics, Responsibilities and Practices


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Arts and Culture: Museum Studies / Art History, research master Arts and Culture, research master Arts, Literature and Media. Students of the MA Arts and Culture: Museum Studies take priority.
Students of the MA International Relations and the MA Archeologie: Heritage and Museum Studies who are interested and who are not enrolled in the Master Arts and Culture should contact the Coordinator of Studies in order to enroll, only possible if there are places left.


This thematic elective is set in the context of changing definitions of the museum as a polyphonic space, meant to foster democratic and inclusive discourses about pasts and futures (ICOFOM). We will ask, for whom are the museums today? What are their responsibilities amidst of the growing demands of decolonization? Hence, this course will engage with the theories and practices of museology concerned foremost with the topical concerns of representations, ethics and repatriations in relation to the charge of care and preservation of cultural heritage of varied social groups. Illuminating examples of these issues include, among others, the spate of statements of cultural institutions around the world in support of the second rising of Black Lives Matter, and how these acts have been celebrated not only as signifiers of important allyship but also denigrated as cynical ploys to appear relevant to certain publics. Questions of ownership and decision making are further highlighted by the public outrage on the restoration of Jan van Eyck’s famous Ghent Altarpiece as well as by the controversy regarding the possible repatriation of a Buddhist statue containing human remains.

This course will enhance the student’s skills of gaining theoretical competence, positioning oneself as a researcher knowledgeable of the recent literature, and learning to respond to topical debates in the field of museum and collections studies. Each session will stage an encounter between theories coming out of institutional critique with a case study from a museum as a site of conflict, controversy, social debate, or shifting the terms of museum studies today. The course is designed to support research-based learning. Each main topic (e.g., publics, partners, programming) will be introduced by the instructors with a set of key readings and case studies. The same topic will be examined further by a group of students according to their research interests. This format will challenge the student to sharpen and deepen their understanding of the particularities of their selected theme within the cultural sector of museums in relation to relevant sociopolitical and cultural dilemmas.

Course objectives

the students will:

  • gain knowledge of museum theory and practice;

  • gain insight into current issues and controversies concerning museums in a global context;

  • practice their communicative and presentational skills in weekly debates;

  • develop their research skills in formulating a relevant research question and writing a research paper (in the form of a scholarly article) on a subject of their choice.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


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

Assessment method


  • Oral presentation of a dilemma (research-based seminar session; groupwork; 40 %). Each student group will be responsible for a session in which they will present a topical case study and reflect on the literature.

  • The individual research paper (60%): A paper of ca. 5000 words will give the student an opportunity to deepen their understanding of their chosen topic.


The final grade is the average of the two grades (presentation 40% and paper 60%). A student passes the class if the weighted average is a 6.0 or higher (marks under 5.0 are not allowed) and the paper is a 6.0 or higher.


The resit assessment involves an alternative assignment ( a paper on a subject provided by the teachers).

Inspection and feedback

Students will receive ample feedback on their presentation and paper. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

The reading list will be made available via Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap Login | Universiteit Leiden is mandatory.


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

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