Museum Activism: Art, Politics, Cultural Work and Policy

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
12 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module focuses on the museum and its changing modes of display. It charts the history of the public museum from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present.

We will explore classic types of museums and their respective display rhetorics. The broader, underlying questions concern narrative and memory. What stories does the museum tell, what does it remember and how?

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To gain knowledge of the history of curatorial labour, galleries and museums.

  • To develop understanding of critical theoretical approaches to curatorial labour, the public sphere and cultural policy.

  • To gain knowledge of specific historical forms of curatorial display.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Be able to make informed historical arguments about the history of museums and curating.

  2. Have knowledge of broad and specific history of display, curatorial labour, and their institutions.

  3. Understand and engage with debates about the museum as an aspect of the public sphere.

Module information

We are used to being presented with a history of art history when we go to the art museum. But rarely do we pay attention to the rhetoric of that narrative or to the political ends it may serve. In addition to looking at the art museum, the series will also consider the representation of nature and other cultures and of larger and different histories such as emigration, war, slavery or the holocaust. How well is the museum equipped to present these? And how does it do that? And finally we will ask: what is the museum's future in the virtual age?

You will be expected to attend all seminars having read all the titles in `seminar reading` on the above lists. It is also expected that you will have read around the subject by looking at other related material. You should come to seminars prepared to speak about the reading and engage in discussion. It may help to make notes beforehand about questions you have, or ideas you wish to discuss.

It is essential that you be prepared to describe and discuss at least one example of your own choosing that relates to the specific subject of each seminar.

The readings listed here as `seminar reading` can all be found on Moodle. They will be uploaded well in advance of the seminar. You may also be asked to prepare texts other than the ones listed under 'seminar reading'. If that occurs your class teacher will alert you to additional reading well in advance of the seminar.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour seminar per week.
  • One reading week with no seminars.

Discussion will be encouraged throughout.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Gavin Grindon, email:
PHAIS Postgraduate Queries:



External examiner

Dr Daniel James Rycroft
University of East Anglia
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 674 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
674 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.