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Unit information: Museums and Heritage: Critical Perspectives in 2021/22

Unit name Museums and Heritage: Critical Perspectives
Unit code ARCHM0076
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Were
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Museums were once understood as dusty mausoleums but are now some of the most creative and exploratory public spaces. This unit introduces interdisciplinary perspectives on the museum and heritage: from museum origins and the growth of heritage, to their social function in contemporary society. It covers diverse contexts and perspectives through which the museum and heritage can be understood in anthropology and archaeology, from issues of power and knowledge to social agents and contact zones. It explores various themes raised by museums and heritage sites including: communities and participation, architecture and branding, cultural rights and property, memory and repatriation, and the rise of digital culture. The unit includes site visits and some film screenings.


1 Introduce the field of critical museum and heritage studies as an interdisciplinary area of study

2 Explore the various definitions and typologies of museums and heritage

3 Examine the historical context of museums and the heritage

4 Provide an understanding of the theoretical approaches to the functions of museums and heritage sites

5 Compare and contrast different approaches to museums and heritage sites through case studies and visits

6 Analyse and assess critically advances in museum and heritage research

Intended Learning Outcomes

After successfully completing this course you should be able to:

1. Understand how museums and heritage can be engaged with from an anthropological perspective;

2. Critically explore and engage with the civic and technical functions of museums and heritage sites, and situate this in expanded political, historical and social trajectories;

3. Understand how the historical development of museums and growth in heritage links to wider social transformations;

4. Critically assess the various theoretical approaches to the functions of museums and heritage sites and select and engage with methodological tools of analysis;

5. Work with a corpus of relevant case studies relating to museums and heritage, nationally and internationally;

6. Analyse and assess critically advances in museum and heritage research by undertaking literature reviews and bibliographic searches.

Teaching Information

Weekly lecture slots supported by self-directed activities

2 x half-day (on site or self-guided) fieldtrips

Assessment Information

One essay and one analysis (mid semester and end of semester)

Mid semester Analysis of Museum or Heritage site: 1000-word essay (30%) ILOs 1, 2, 4,5

End of semester Essay: 4000-word essay (70%) ILOs 3, 5, 6


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ARCHM0076).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.