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History and Theory of Museums and Collections: Museum Theory


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s degree obtained.


In this course, students explore a range of different approaches and issues in cultural politics and cultural theory as relevant to modern museum practices. Issues discussed will include post-colonial and post-structural responses to the museum as an institution; the artistic practice of institutional critique and its (paradoxical) absorption into museum practice; and the deployment of ritual and performance theories to analyse how museums function.
We will read authors such as Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, James Clifford, Tony Bennett, and Anthony Shelton, among others. The theoretical part of the course will be supported by discussions of case studies from South- and Meso-America, Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Course objectives

  • Thorough knowledge of relevant theoretical approaches;

  • Ability to critically analyse texts about the cultural field;

  • Ability to apply cultural theories to museums and collections.


  • November 2nd to December 2nd, 2011
    Wednesdays 15-17 h, room SA09, Pieter de la Court Building
    Fridays 13-15 h, room SA35, Pieter de la Court Building

  • Exam: 21 December 2011, 15-17 h in the Huizinga Building, room 004

  • Retake: 18 January 2012, 15-17 h, in the Huizinga Building, room 002

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Discussions

Assessment method

  • Written exam

  • Short paper

Reading list

  • T. Bennett, The Birth of Museums. (1995)

  • Articles, to be announced later


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw dr L.N.K. van Broekhoven.