Museums, Societies and Cultural Change

Module code: MU7025

Module co-ordinator: Dr David Unwin

Module Outline

The museum’s relationship to society is complex, multidimensional and shifting. Increasingly subject to the influences and challenges of rapidly changing social, political and economic environments, museums - traditionally been characterised as static and fiercely resistant to change - are responding by embracing new roles, forging new relationships, charting new territory and reconfiguring themselves around a full range of cultural and heritage resources.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module the student will be able to:

  • Develop well-informed understandings about the place of museums within different societies and their relationships to other institutions, organisations and agencies
  • Assess how wider agendas, policy formulation and current museum thinking are impacting on museums and galleries
  • Discuss different histories and discourses concerning museums and galleries
  • Define museum ethics of the twenty-first century and distinguish between contemporary ethics discourse and that of the past
  • Identify and examine the key ethical challenges for museums and the ethical opportunities that have arisen to reconfigure ethics
  • Critically engage with the changing role that museums have played in the processes relating to the construction of knowledge, meaning-making and representation
  • Interrogate objects, their meanings and values, and the wider contexts of which they are a part
  • Outline ways in which museums might further explore the potential of objects
  • Assess the documenting and collecting activities of museums and understand how new ideas, principles, values and approaches are influencing these aspects of museum work
  • Illustrate that museums work with diverse audiences and communities and recognise the value of doing visitor studies
  • Discuss the relationship between cultural organisations and cultural change
  • Map the relationship between change in the museum and change in museum ethics


  • 35 one-hour lectures
  • 10 one-hour seminars
  • 4 one-hour tutorials
  • 15 one-hour workshops


  • Essay, 4,000-5,000 words (100%)