Public History Module: Sharing the Secrets of Colchester Castle Museum

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
19 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA V3R9 Art History with Modern Languages,
BA VR3B Art History with Modern Languages (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA V305 Curating with Politics,
BA V306 Curating with Politics (including Foundation Year),
BA V307 Curating with Politics (including Placement Year),
BA V308 Curating with Politics (including Year Abroad),
BA V309 Curating with History,
BA V310 Curating with History (including Foundation Year),
BA V311 Curating with History (including Placement Year),
BA V312 Curating with History (including Year Abroad)

Module description

This module gives you a unique opportunity to apply your historical knowledge and research skills to help Colchester Castle Museum connect their collections with the communities that they serve. You will work with Colchester & Ipswich Museum Service's curatorial team and get a unique behind the scenes look at the work of an important museum. This will give you a valuable insight into the way in which heritage organisations share the material culture of the past with the public of today.

We will examine the ways in which curators use objects to tell stories in exhibitions and permanent displays and think critically about the way this has changed over time. You will work as a team to create a virtual exhibition using objects and images from the Colchester Museums collection, including countless things that have never been seen by the public. Working to a theme set by the curators, you will each choose an object from the collection, and use your primary source analysis and research skills to interpret it. Your individual objects and interpretations will be combined into an interactive online exhibition.

Module aims

Students on this module will:

1. Work with Colchester Castle Museum to fulfil the requirements of a live research project relating to heritage or material culture.

2. Produce interpretations of museum items that are written in a way that is accessible to public audiences.

3. Combine analysis of written historical sources with material objects and artworks.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of the module, students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate how your work fulfils the requirements of a project set by an external organisation (Colchester Castle Museum).

2. Understand how archives, collections and research resources are organised and structured, and how they can be used together.

3. Confidently combine traditional written historical sources with material primary sources such as objects or artworks.

4. Effectively combine text and media resources to create an attractive and accessible report using digital tools.

Module information

For introductory reading, see:

Hamling, Tara, 'Visual and Material Culture', in Understanding Early Modern Primary Sources, ed. by Laura Sangha and Jonathan Willis (London; New York: Routledge, 2016), pp. 129-52.

Knell, Simon J., Suzanne Macleod, and Sheila E. R. Watson, eds., Museum Revolutions: How Museums Change and Are Changed (London: Routledge, 2007).

Macdonald, Sharon, ed., A Companion to Museum Studies, Blackwell Companions in Cultural Studies; 12 (Malden, Mass.; Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).

Schubert, Karsten, The Curator’s Egg: The Evolution of the Museum Concept from the French Revolution to the Present Day; 3rd ed (London: Ridinghouse, 2009).

Learning and teaching methods

Lectures and seminars.


  • L. Jordanova. (1989) 'Objects of knowledge: A historical perspective on museums', in The new museology, London: Reaktion., pp.22-40
  • De Groot, Jerome. (2016) Consuming history: historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture, Abingdon: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • (Monday, 15 Apr 2019) A House Through Time: BBC2 England.
  • Jordanova, L. J. (2012) The look of the past: visual and material evidence in historical practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cannadine, David. (1952-) 'The Transformation of Civic Ritual in Modern Britain: The Colchester Oyster Feast', in Past and Present. vol. 94 (1) , pp.107-130
  • Bodenhamer, David J. (©2015) 'Narrating Space and Place', in Deep maps and spatial narratives, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   An individual contribution to Online Exhibition (800 word blog OR short video)    30% 
Coursework   Online Exhibition (group grade)    20% 
Coursework   Reflective Essay (2000 words)  04/05/2021  45% 
Practical   Seminar participation    5% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Justin Colson, email:
Belinda Waterman, Department of History, 01206 872313



External examiner

Dr Mark Williams
Cardiff University
Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History
Available via Moodle
Of 1601 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1601 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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