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Museum archaeology


Compulsory attendance

As a supporting discipline, the course Museum archaeology is open for other MA students in the Faculty of Archaeology. Students of the MA Heritage Management can either choose this course or Heritage management in practice.

Prerequisites and restrictions

BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


This course is part of the MA specialisation “Heritage Management in a World Context”. Museums are of course intricately linked with the presentation of heritage. In this course students will become acquainted with the history of antiquarian collections, which stand at the basis of many modern archaeological museums. But the main part of the course will be dedicated to the aims, methods, practice and theory of museum archaeology. Communication with the public is an important issue: the museum archaeologist has to decide which information is offered to the visitor and – in collaboration with his/her colleagues of the presentation-department – in what way. Different methods of presenting the past will be examined. Ethical questions will be discussed, for example attitudes to exhibiting human remains, the provenance of archaeological objects, illegal trafficking and dealing and the way archaeological museums acquire new objects in their collections. The place of museums in society is a central topic of discussion: are museums silent repositories for the preservation of the past, or should they play an active role in current archaeological debates?
Part of the course will be taught in the galleries and depots of the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden. In this way students will be able to combine the theoretical framework with the touch and feel of real archaeological artefacts.

Learning outcomes

  • Insight in the history of antiquarian collections and archaeological museums;

  • Ability to analyse different exhibition concepts;

  • Communication theory;

  • Awareness of ethical questions concerning museum archaeology;

  • Awareness of the role of archaeological museums in society.

Mode of delivery

  • Lectures;

  • Tutorials;

  • Museum practice.


Museum presentation/virtual exhibition.

Reading list

H. Swain, An Introduction to Museum Archaeology. Cambridge (2007)