Museum Anthropology Teaching Resources: University of British Columbia Part 1

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ANTH 241A: Introduction to Museums and Museology

Credits: 3 

Time and Place 
Term 2 (Monday, January 5, 2015 to Friday, April 10, 2015)
Tuesdays and Thursday, 2.00–3.30pm
Location: Buchanan A103

Withdrawal Dates
Last day to withdraw without a W standing: January 19, 2015
Last day to withdraw with a W standing 
(the course cannot be dropped after this date): February 13, 2015

Dr. Diana E. Marsh
Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Museum Anthropology
Department of Anthropology Room:  AnSo153
Office hour/s: Wednesdays, 10:00am–12:00pm
Phone: 604-822-9972

This introductory course explores the museum as a dynamic site of cultural production (and consumption), and an important sphere for anthropological study. We will examine the historical and contemporary relationships between museums, cultural heritage, art and anthropology—probing into theories of the object, collections and the politics of collecting—and broader political, economic, and socio-cultural contexts. Beginning by framing the course in the early history of museums, we will focus on the crisis and the re-imagining of the museum in the late twentieth and twenty-first century and the move to democratize and decolonize the museum field through innovative architecture, exhibitions and curatorial practices; through indigenous strategies of representation and repatriation; through public programming and education; through the dynamics of globalization and new media technologies, as well as other strategies and forms.


The textbook for this course is Sharon Macdonald’s edited volume, A Companion to Museum Studies, which is available at the UBC library online. All other readings will be available via links or PDF download on our Connect site.
You are responsible for keeping up with the reading assignments. This means that you need to have reviewed the week’s readings before the classes dealing with those topics. Your participation grade will be largely dependent on your engagement with these readings, and it is expected that you will be familiar with them in the midterm and final, and draw on them in your online exhibit.

There are five components for assessment and grading:

Participation (10%)
Midterm (25%)
Online exhibit (25%)
Online exhibit group presentation (15%)
Final exam (25%) 

Class participation (10%): 
Participation: Assessment of class participation will take into consideration attendance (from weekly attendance sheets) as well as the quality of engagement with assigned readings and in-class contributions to the discussion. Absences will only be excused with the presentation of a valid doctor’s or Dean’s note. You are expected to actively demonstrate that you have read all required readings and are able to discuss their content as well as the issues raised by the author(s). Your participation grade will also take into account your participation in peer-reviewing online exhibits.

Online exhibit (25%) and Presentation + one-page group reflection (15%) (Total: 40%): 
Using the Engage UBC Exhibit Tool, students will build online exhibits on an object or group of objects selected from the Reciprocal Research Network with their groups (to be assigned in class). Online exhibits should engage with a weekly topic or theme covered in class and at least three (3) readings assigned in class. 

These online exhibits are intended to explore readings and topics, as well as stimulate and guide class debates through close attention to material culture. Your group should be able to use an object or small group of objects to draw out salient themes or critical points from the readings and elucidate them in terms of historical events, case studies, or contexts explored in the course. The exhibit should indicate 1) that you have done significant research on your object/s and 2) that you have a lucid understanding of your chosen theme in relation to relevant literature and examples/case studies. 

Each online exhibit will include shared, group co-authored sections, and individually authored sections. Therefore each individual in the group will be required to author their own page or section within the exhibit. All exhibits will be rated by fellow classmates; all students are required to rate their peers’ online exhibit.  Grades will be based on a combination of the group’s work and each individual’s work. 

Each group will give a brief 20-minute presentation of their online exhibit that describes the theme, object or objects(s) analyzed, and how their exhibit relates to the readings. The group will receive a uniform grade for their presentation. High marks for both the online exhibit and the group’s presentation will be given for demonstrating the following components, as well as for innovative media or presentational techniques: 1) A clear theme or argument and illustration of critical thinking 2) Summary and description of the object/s 3) Original research 4) Critical and analytical engagement with course readings. Both grades for this assignment will also be influenced by peer reviews of the exhibit and presentation by your classmates. Your group must also hand in a one-page reflection on your experience producing the exhibit and using both the RRN and the Engage UBC Exhibit Tool.

Midterm exam (25%)
Thursday, February 12, in class

Final exam (25%)
Date TBD

Other matters: submission, formatting, lateness, grading criteria

Submission & Formatting: All assignments must be completed on time, unless you have prior permission from the instructor. Online exhibit texts must use American Anthropological Association standards for citation and bibliographic sourcing.

Plagiarism and Academic Honesty: Plagiarism will not be tolerated and all submitted text will be subject to review. Please refer to the Faculty of Arts plagiarism guide at

Grading: The Faculty of Arts uses the following grading criteria: (Remember that in this course, points are not subtracted from 100%; rather, you build your grades from the ground up.)

The textbook for this course is Sharon Macdonald’s edited volume, A Companion to Museum Studies, which is available online at the UBC library. Additional readings will supplement articles from this core text. Each week we will read and discuss a critical topic in the history and theory of museums and museology. Readings for this class will frame the lectures and class discussions. The first half of the course focuses on the histories of museums and anthropology in order to frame the re-imagining of the museum in the 20th century; the second half proceeds thematically and covers a wide range of topics in museology and museum anthropology. In both cases, Tuesday classes will present the broader topic and them, while Thursday classes will focus on contemporary case studies, applications and discussions. All readings not available through UBC library will be available on our Connect site. Required readings are notated with an *.