HKUK03617U Art history: The Museum: A site of Interdependencies

Volume 2013/2014
Art history

The course proposes to investigate the museum as historical, social, cultural and political loci, a site of interdependencies. It envisions the museum as a concept (culture, identity, nationalism, control and power, symbol) as much as realisation (building, repository, artefacts, display and exhibitions, art, ethnography, ‘public’ space). The museum as an institution and social agent changing as well as preserving itself through time is the point of departure to fathom and discuss central concepts in the humanities and social sciences such as, but not exclusively, the notion of time (past/present/history/clock and other times) and space, the materiality of memory, representation and cultural reproduction, the gaze, and exhibition semiotics.

The museum as an artefact and the museum as housing and displaying artefacts is an ideal site to investigate the notion of time, history and memory. Not only are museums a source of knowledge by displaying historical and artistic representations, it is also an agent of identity building (we and the Other). In this framework, the interactions between artefacts, the museum, and society may prompt memories of the past and create, at times, bones of contention (repatriation).

The museum as space may encapsulate different times and memories, but also translate contemporaneity. Playing with space is playing with meaning and this activity is central to the museum. Gathering meaning beyond the text of the exhibition (understood as a combination of exhibition texts, artefacts and their relative location to one another within a given exhibition design), exhibition semiotics will be introduced.

Post-colonialism, post-nationalism (or is it?), globalization, such terms mark both a rupture and new major processes in action. Does this mean that the theories gathered to understand the raison d’être of the museum (first section of the course) is losing pertinence in rapidly changing societies? Rather than thinking in terms of ruptures, we may investigate some contemporary challenges to museums, and their responses on the European continent.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 80
  • Guidance
  • 1
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 315
  • Total
  • 420
Type of assessment
Exam registration requirements
The Exam will be in English