MUSEUMS 301 - Museums and Society
Section: 001
Term: FA 2009
Subject: Museums (MUSEUMS)
Department: LSA History of Art
Requirements & Distribution:
Enforced Prerequisites:
Sophomore standing or above.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

MUSEUMS 301 serves as the gateway course to students’ formal understanding of the field of museum studies. Students will be introduced to the three thematic areas that form the basis for the new museum studies curriculum: objects and collections; institutions; and society. The course emphasizes history and theory as they relate to the main thematic areas of the course with the goal of establishing a strong foundation upon which subsequent MUSEUMS courses and electives can build. Ideally theory and practice inform one another, so history and theory will be juxtaposed with current museum practice. Students should emerge from this course with a historical/theoretical understanding of institutions, objects and collections, and society as further informed by an awareness of contemporary museum practice.

Using this basic approach, MUSEUMS 301 addresses a host of compelling issues. The areas of objects and collections, institutions, and society alone offer sufficient opportunity for study. However, the goals of this course are broader: identifying critical areas of overlap as potential subjects for study, e.g., how displays of objects have been used to represent ethnic, racial, and religious issues; the responsibility of public museums to the greater community; and how changes in museum ethics may affect museum collecting policies. In a similar vein, the course will be further enlivened through direct engagement with museums, museum collections, and contact with museum professionals. Student assignments will include the study of museum artifacts, museum policy, and the design of museum exhibitions. This course will offer the secondary benefit of enriching students’ understanding of their home discipline. Considerable new content knowledge, enhanced critical thinking and analysis, and new theoretical bases from which to draw are likely to advance student learning in virtually any discipline. Having acquired a basic “museum literacy,” graduates of the course will be prepared to actively engage with the considerable resources of the world’s museums and become potential stewards of our shared cultural and intellectual heritage.

Crs Requirements: In-class midterm and final exams emphasizing lecture content and course readings. Three short (4-6 page) papers:

  1. a visual analysis of an object on display in one of the university museums;
  2. a comparative analysis of 990 statements for a large national and small regional museum; and
  3. an investigation into a specific technology being developed to enhance the museum experience.

Intended Audience: Second- and third-year undergraduates

Class Format: 2 hrs lecture and 1 hr discussion plus museum site visits

MUSEUMS 301 - Museums and Society
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 4:00PM - 5:00PM
002 (DIS)
F 10:00AM - 11:00AM
003 (DIS)
F 11:00AM - 12:00PM
004 (DIS)
F 1:00PM - 2:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 0679764895
Mr. Wilson's cabinet of wonder, Author: Lawrence Weschler., Publisher: Vintage Books 1st Vintag 1996
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 1560983965
The museum in transition : a philosophical perspective, Author: Hilde S. Hein., Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press [Nachdr.] 2000
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 0415357624
Civilizing the museum : the collected writings of Elaine Heumann Gurian, Author: Elaine Heumann Gurian., Publisher: Routledge 2006
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 9780563539131
The Museum : behind the scenes at the British Museum, Author: Rupert Smith., Publisher: BBC Books 2007
ISBN: 1598741969
Museum origins : readings in early museum history and philosophy, Publisher: Left Coast Press 2008
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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