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The Idea of the Museum

Cultural Studies


GENG-7821-001 Topics in Visual Cultures, offered simultaneously with
GHIST-7830-001 History of Museums and Collecting: The Idea of the Museum
Fall/Winter 2017-18 
Professor S. Borys
Thursdays 2:30-5:15 PM at the WAG

Museums and galleries do more than collect, document, and exhibit objects; they participate in the packaging and presentation of the materials and ideas of culture and their authors, engaging with a diverse public and multiple stakeholders. This course examines the collecting and exhibiting practices of European and North American museums and galleries over the last two centuries with the goal of understanding their evolving role and mission. We explore how museums developed in part with and response to the ideas of collecting and connoisseurship, and the disciplines of art history and museology, and how these institutions reflect or relate to different ideologies, such as nationalism and colonialism, and other historical, social, and political precedents. Students will study and discuss how artworks, artifacts and collections as a whole, along with their caretakers, function in the construct of cultural, community, and national identities and agendas. Public and private institutions from the 18th century to the present day will be considered, with particular focus on a select group of European and North American museums, including the Winnipeg Art Gallery.