Faculty of Arts

HUMS 300

Critiquing the museum


What is it about museums? How do they work and what are they for? An interdisciplinary approach to understanding how museums function in society, this course will look at where museums have come from in Aotearoa/New Zealand and globally, as well as where they are heading to now.

An introduction to the history and theory of museums, and to institutional collecting and the interpretation of culture. The focus will be on the role of museums in colonisation and nation building, involvement in globalising processes as well as the opportunities museums offer for social advocacy.

Aiming to provide a wide-ranging and challenging introduction to the theoretical issues involved in contemporary museum practice as a sociologically-informed and socially-situated discipline, this course will encourage the development of critically aware perspectives on professional practice and research processes.

The aim of this course is to familiarise students from a range of subject specialisms with current issues in museology, and the ways in which museums have been developing from storehouses of culture and centres of authority to flexible places which engage with communities and invite audiences to author their own museum experiences.

Examples will be drawn from museums in Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia but there will be a special focus on Australia and New Zealand.

The analysis of case studies will enable the identification of key themes in museum practice today such as the politics of representation; contestation between demands for access to collections and the need for preservation and control; repatriation of collections and human remains and the impact of digitisation imperatives on the use of collections. Emphasis will be given to critically analysing the role of museums locally in the building of the nation-state as well as the impact of post-colonialism and de-colonisation on local museum practice. The potential for social and historical criticism in museum practices and the importance of the critical perspective of audiences and communities will be examined.

Classes will explore recent controversial cases in the museum world in order that students will gain critical insight into different aspects of museum practices and community engagement.






Availability 2021

Semester 2


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Linda Tyler



Recommended Reading


The international handbooks of museum studies


Sharon Macdonald editor.; Helen Rees Leahy editor.; Credo Reference (Firm), distributor.


Boston, Massachusetts : Credo Reference, Chichester, West Sussex England : John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2015., Boston, Massachusetts : Credo Reference. 2017. First edition..; [Enhanced Credo edition].




HUMS 300: 15.0 points


15 points in BA courses

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