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The History of Museums


Admission requirements

There are no additional requirements.

This course has replaced the course *Museum, Cultural Heritage and Collections * (2022-2023).


The central theme of this lecture course is the history and development of museums, beginning with the idea of the museum that developed with early modern collecting practices of princes and scholars of the Renaissance, including their vast interests in the global word and antiquities, as well as science, nature and art, through to the institutional collecting inspired by the French Revolution and Enlightenment, up to 19th-century nation building in Europe and the invention of national museums. The emphasis will be on the intellectual ideas that drove early modern collectors and modern museum founders and the political and theoretical issues that informed the rise of modern museums, in terms of their architecture, mission, collecting goals, colonial and postcolonial practices and other important social issues.

Course objectives

  • Students learn the historical and intellectual foundations of early modern collecting that gave rise to the modern museum.

  • Students gain an understanding of the different roles of people in the building of early modern collections.

  • Students learn about printed sources and works of art as sources for studying the history of museums.

  • Students learn about the various types of collections that preceded and informed the modern museum.

  • Students learn about the political, intellectual and social issues that influenced the growth of the modern museum and different museum types.

  • Students acquire a basic understanding of the significance of museum architecture.

  • Students learn about connections between global and colonial collecting and the rise of national museums.

  • Students gain an understanding of current efforts at decolonizing modern museums.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture series

  • Student visits to museums

Assessment method


Two written examinations on the lectures, museum visits and readings.


  • Mid term exam: 50% of Final Grade.

  • Final exam: 50% of Final Grade.

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average. To successfully complete the course the weighted average needs to be a passing grade (5.5 and higher).


If the end grade is insufficient (5,4 or below) for either the midterm or final or both and together the weighted average of both exams does not equal a passing grade (5,5 (rounded off to a 6,0) or higher), it is possible to take a resit examination for the failed midterm and/or the final exam.

It is generally not allowed to resit an examination for which the student has received a pass (5,5 or higher). Should a student with a 5.5 or higher seek special permission to resit an exam, a request can only be made in writing to the Exam Committee.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Readings will be posted on Brightspace


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.
For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


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

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal