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Museums and Collections: Museum Matters


Admission requirements

See MA Arts and Culture programme guide and Exam regulations.


Museums are powerful and influential institutions in their ability to shape knowledge through their collections and exhibitions. But besides being educational bodies of authority, they are also becoming sites of infotainment in their quest to attract and please the public.

In this seminar we will study the politics of museum practice in modern times through various themes which are connected to current issues and controversies. Questions, such as how museums contribute to our identity and cultural memory and whose voice is heard in the museum, shall be scrutinized. We will examine the politics and ethics of collecting and exhibiting in a wide variety of museums and analyze the changing position of the museum in a globalized world. Furthermore, the museum as medium will be studied and the narratives of exhibitions will be analyzed.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • gain knowledge of museum theory and politics of museum practice in modern times, and insight into current issues and controversies concerning museums;

  • practice their communicative skills in weekly debates and in the presentation of their own reseach topic;

  • develop their research skills in formulating a relevant research question and writing a paper on this subject of their own choice.


See the timetable on the Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction


Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two seminars.

Assessment method

  • Paper/essay (75%);

  • Oral presentation and active involvement in class discussion (25%).


Blackboard will be used for special announcements, assignments and required weekly reading.

Reading list

Will be posted on Blackboard.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

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 Co-ordinator of studies.

Contact information

Dr. M.A. Leigh


  • Museum Matters is a compulsory course for students who wish to specialize in Museums and Collections.

  • Fieldtrips and guest lectures are an important part of the course. Students will be expected to make frequent visits to museums in order to analyze displays and exhibitions.

  • In the specialization Museums and Collections of the MA Arts and Culture, this course focuses on contemporary practices of the museum as sites of knowledge production and platform of discussion and debate regarding issues of cultural value, identity and memory. As a free component course it also holds value for the specialization Art of the Contemporary World and World Art Studies.