Museums, Collections, Exhibitions: An Introduction to Museology

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Remote students
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Course Description: 

This course offers an overview of museums from different viewpoints. It is an introduction to this type of heritage institutions dealing with operation visible to and hidden from the public. It deals with questions related to the functions of museums,  how museums fulfill their key roles in collecting, preserving and displaying the cultural heritage assets in their custody. During the course, students will get first-hand information on the processes behind the scenes through  virtual and on site visits to collection depots and conservation studios with the guidance of museum professionals. Another focus is on museum activities directed towards the public, with special regard to exhibitions and various other forms of communication. We study together some historical aspects of museums and in general the history of this types of institutions. By analyzing the textual and visual sources created by museums and dealing with their life, we focus on some important aspects. One of them are  exhibitions, and we identify the messages they convey to the public. We investigate whether the various museum functions and communication tools work together in transmitting well-formulated and coherent narratives. One of the key questions of the course, how museum institutions contribute to the main issues of heritage (cultural and natural) interpretation.

Learning Outcomes: 

Familiarity with various types of museums, collections and operation models

Awareness of the ways in which museums fulfill their role in preserving, interpreting and communicating cultural heritage

On-the-spot and online observation of museum work behind the scenes and open to the public

Ability to contextualize and describe selected aspects of museum operation


Regular class attendance is mandatory. Active participation in seminar discussion is essential, it is also part of the final grade for the course. Seminar discussions will be built on examples quoted, presented and debated by participants and these examples will also be connected to the countries of the students. The course involves virtual museum visits, on site visits by the participants of the course, and individual visits of museums and exhibitions.  We will also organize onsite visits with the whole group, where students are required to arrive on time and respect security and other regulations. Students are expected to actively participate in discussions, reflecting on the presentations, asking questions and formulating their views. They need to do minor tasks from week to week (reading relevant texts and publications). On some occasions they will be expected to perform group tasks. Extra museum visits (onsite or online) may be necessary to prepare for the mid-term presentation (20%) and/or for the term paper (50%).

Students will receive group assignments on selected topics (to be specified in Class 1). This will be due mid-term and will include joint presentations by the groups (power point, 10 minutes long) (10%). The assignments are related to different museum functions, and the main source material for the group presentation should be based on individual interviews with selected museum experts. Short written summary of the interviews should also be submitted (10%).

Each student will be required to prepare a final paper (5-6 pages) on a selected topic.The papers are plans related to various types of museum activity (collection, protection, academic research, public relations, exhibitions, community programs, etc.), and they should be based on individual research. Discussion points presented during the seminars are also important parts of the term papers.