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Museums and Collections: Museum Matters


Admission requirements

See Teaching and Examination 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. Special attention will be given to representation and canonization in museums. As part of the course, we will design and install our own exhibition.

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;

  • gain knowledge of and experience in exhibiting.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

10 ec = 280 hours

  • Seminars: 3 hours per week x 12 weeks = 36 hours

  • Museum visits = XX hours

  • Studying compulsory readings for seminars = XX hours

  • Preparing oral presentation =

  • Preparing exhibition proposal and contribution to execution =XX hours

  • Writing of final course paper, XX words = XX hours (rereading texts, collecting research material, searching and reading additional literature, composing and writing of paper)

Assessment method

  • Paper (50%)

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

  • Exhibition proposal and contribution to execution (25%)


Blackboard will be used for special announcements, assignments and required weekly reading.Students will be expected to post questions (weekly) and assignments in Discussion Board.

Reading list

  • Sharon Macdonald (ed.), A Companion to Museum Studies, Blackwell Publishing, 2006

Further reading list will be posted on Blackboard.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration studeren Studeren à la carte
Registration studeren Contractonderwijs


Dr. M.A. (Nana) Leigh


  • 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 relation to the Museum Matters Course a special research internship/workshop (in cooperation with the museum Lakenhal) is planned concerning Leiden Collections, Canons and Digital media.

  • In the specialisation 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 specialisation Art of the Contemporary World and World Art Studies.