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Creating a Public. Museums and their audiences


Module description

Instead of taking the 'public' character of museums for granted, this module explores intersecting conceptions of that term within English museums from 1753 (the foundation of the British Museum) to the present day.

The module may be of interest to you if you have a vocational or intellectual interest in museums or if you are interested in discussions of audiences and the general public.

You will investigate museums as public institutions from the following perspectives:

  • they are supported by the state
  • they are accessible to the people at large
  • they are public spheres which provide a forum for discussion.

This module examines how those different forms of public status impact on who visits museums and why. You will consider how museums have sought to serve the purposes of the state, how they have endeavoured to shape ‘the public’, and why they have done so.

Indicative module content 

  • Museum architecture
  • Government policy
  • Funding
  • Access arrangements
  • Labelling
  • Museum opening hours

Classes will cover historic and recent case studies, and will include:

  • general discussions
  • slide lectures
  • closed reading of selected texts
  • student presentations
  • museum visits.