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MSST 110

Contemporary Issues in Museum Studies

This course introduces and examines the institutional practices of museums (as well as other exhibition spaces) with emphasis on the ethical dimensions of these practices. How do the creators of exhibits find ways to translate complex ideas and contextual material into accessible, compelling displays? What methods do museum professionals employ to involve and assist visitors? Why do some exhibitions become sites of public controversies and battles over representation- whose voices are heard and whose are silenced? In what manner do discussions of power, privilege, and diversity come into play in museums? How do exhibition planners negotiate ethnic, racial, class, religious, gender, and sexual difference? This course has a two-fold goal: it will introduce students to museums and their operations, and it will explore critical issues of power, privilege, and diversity in contemporary museum studies. In meeting the first goal, we will consider museum missions, practices of collection, exhibition strategies and interpretation, and audience appeal. Then, the class will situate museum strategies and practices in a larger context, examining changing museum ideologies and institutional engagements with the politics of cultural representation, as well as the ethical debates over the 'ownership' of culture and cultural artifacts. Assignments and site visits will further strengthen students' reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Arts and Humanities 1 course