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Museums, Memory and National Identity


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Dr Gabriel Koureas
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

How do people understand the past? How is public memory controlled and shaped by institutions charged with presenting the past to the public?

These are some of the questions that will preoccupy this module in order to examine from a critical perspective the relationships between museums, their history and museulogical debates placed within the broader context of material and visual culture theory. This will enable us to look at the museum as a place in which the past is remembered not only by the inclusion or by exclusion of what is exhibited but also by how the past is interpreted within particular ideological frameworks.

In order to achieve this a number of museums will be addressed from a variety of disciplinary approaches that explore the museum in relation to power, colonialism, nationalism, class, gender, ethnicity and community. Our aim will be to investigate common themes and problems that define museum representations of the past in order to discuss the connections and distinctions between the theory and practice of exhibiting cultures and to understand how memory and historical events converge in the social production of collections and institutions. Our focus will be on museums not merely as containers of history, but as social arenas that influence and determine the politics, value and experience of the past. We will explore museums as sites of cultural authority and individual imagination, of contestation and reconciliation, of fragmentation and community. The module will use case studies from national museums, national expositions, galleries and archives to ground our approach to museums.