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Curating the Nineteenth Century


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Victoria Mills
  • Assessment: a 1500-word object analysis and historicist contextualisation (25%) and 3500-word essay (75%)

Module description

The nineteenth century is often called the age of the museum, and it is considered the period during which the modern museum - the museum as we know it today - was born. In this module we explore how exhibition and museum practices developed across the nineteenth century and how research into nineteenth-century culture and society is presented to public audiences via curatorial practice today.

You will examine a range of objects (paintings, sculpture, photography, printed material) and take part in visits to institutions that include the Victoria and Albert Museum (Britain 1760-1900, Cast Courts and the new Photography Centre), the Dickens Museum, the British Library and Tate Britain. You will also learn from curators about their professional experience.

This module is ideal if you are interested in the Victorian period and in museums, collecting, exhibition and display. It is scheduled to run in the daytime to accommodate visits to museums and galleries.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction: histories and legacies of the Victorian museum
  • Curating the nineteenth century in the twenty-first
  • The philosophy of the house museum - visit to the Dickens Museum and session with curators
  • Curating nineteenth-century print - visit to the British Library and session with curators
  • Victorian object handling and analysis
  • Exploring the V&A (British galleries, Cast Courts, Photography Centre)
  • Curating Blake
  • Curating nineteenth-century art - visit to Tate Britain

Learning objectives

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

  • discuss the development of the nineteenth-century museum
  • analyse a range of nineteenth-century sources and be able to evaluate how museums were represented in different nineteenth-century cultural forms
  • understand how the Victorians are curated in contemporary museums
  • recognise and understand key critical and interdisciplinary approaches to studying Victorian museums, as well as contemporary collecting and curating
  • understand the role of a curator and how it differs dependent on the museum or gallery context.