ClST 389 Classical Backgrounds: An Introduction to Museum studies
This course discusses museums well beyond their traditional function of collecting, preserving, interpreting and presenting documents produced by material cultures of our world. Students will be guided in fact to see museums also as “mass-media” , social “tracers” as well as “objects-subjects” for economical and political elaboration. Special attention will be given to the experiences developed internationally throughout the 20th century, when the very name and the concept of museum have been thoroughly reconsidered. The Instructor’s lifelong experiences as a museum-professional will offer frequently a “behind-the-scene” approach to this world and to its problems.
Side by side with a brief introduction to the history of museums, the course mirrors the developments of specific fields like Museography and Museology as combined in Museum Studies. In a multidisciplinary perspective, students will consider museums as support of specific research, primary tools for all levels of education, powerful social actors within their communities and, frequently, key-points along the trails of international tourism. From different viewpoints students will also consider the impact on the museums’ world of many conflicting needs, relevant not only to their mission but also to their operation and budgeting (see syllabus below for details on individual topics discussed). For these reasons the course could appeal to students interested in the Humanities, in the Social Sciences and in Economics as well.
Moreover, the necessary attention given to an adequate appreciation of Museum Architecture across time and space (far beyond the functional task of providing collections with a proper “shelter”) will help students to see museum-collections into their full context, considering design, forms and materials used in the process and developing personal views on the reciprocal impact of collections and museum-design. Especially in this sense, the course tries to stimulate critical ability, visual sensitivity and an attitude to consider how different designs, forms and materials can contribute to the manyfold tasks that museums perform in our society and to their impact on the urban space and on ourselves. The interest shown, the world over, by individual communities for their local museums (or for the possibility of creating one) could offer to students of this course a chance of developing personal views on such problems.
In the process of debating museums, their collections, their history, their displays, their design and their interaction with their social context, students will be assisted by the broad variety of viewpoints presented in our textbook, one of the best available sources in English to approach the field of Museum Studies. All of that will help them in developing their own interpretations as well as in acquiring the relevant vocabulary; consequently they will enrich their own chances to contribute to the cultural and artistic life of their own communities.
Every lesson will be richly illustrated by original slides from the instructor’s collection, reproducing documents on historical collections, buildings of contemporary museums in four Continents, details of their displays, as well as diagrams produced to visualize specific problems and/or data related with their management. The on site classes (please see syllabus below for details) will be properly assisted with specific materials prepared by the Instructor. Readings from modern sources on Museum Studies (in English or in translation) will be offered in class or made available as abstracts for home-work. In all cases, class-discussion and participation to class-work are to be considered crucial and are highly encouraged and valued by the instructor. Moreover, since the variety of points and comparisons developed, both in class and in the on-site visits, can only in part find a substitute in the required readings, class attendance, individual feedback and personal interaction with the teacher are strongly recommended.
This course will be using Blackboard. Personal appointments can be arranged at the students’ discretion. For email contacts, usually answered within 24 hours in office days, see address above. For all urgent matters, phone calls are recommended (see details above).
The midterm exam will consist of a hand-written essay answering two questions over four or five; such questions -broad in scope and flexible in structure- will be strictly based on class-work, on-site visits and the related reading material. The same format and methodology will be applied to the final exam. Individual cases and personal problems can be discussed with the Instructor.
During the month of February, the students will choose, under the Instructor’s guidance, the topic for an individual project in writing -a brief essay or report based on a printed source and/or on the analysis of web-site(s)- related with one or more international museums and/or with the relevant problems. Ideally such essays (format of not less than 5 to 6 typed pages) should reflect a personal interest within the scope of the course. These papers are to be given personally, in hard copy, to the instructor by March 29 at the very latest. No email messages can be accepted for grading.
In this context it’s worth to remind students that will be taken for granted their knowledge of our University’s policy on matters of academic integrity (on such matters please see http//www.luc.academics/undergrade/catalog/standards.html).
(References are made to: Bettina Messias CARBONELL, Museum Studies - An Anthology of contexts; Blackwell Publishing UK Ltd.. 2003 / paperback, available at our Bookstore and in our Library) . Other work-material, including suggestions on relevant web-sites, will be posted on Blackboard during the semester.
Lessons 1 and 2 An introduction to the course. Museums today: ancestry and tentative definitions. Collections and “museums” from the Renaissance to the end of the 18th century (CARBONELL: Introductions, pages 1 and 15; Chapters: 1, p.18, BAZIN; 2, p.23, FINDLEN; 5, pag.85, HUDSON).
Lesson 3 The “modern museum” – advent, functions, legacy (CARBONELL:
Chapters: 3, p.51, DUNCAN; 4, p.71, PREZIOSI; 39, p.403, LE CORBUSIER).
Lesson 4 on site A visit to the Palazzo Altemps – archaeological masterpieces from: the collections of the Museo Nazionale Romano. www.archeoroma.beniculturali.it/it/palazzo_massimo (there, link to Palazzo Altemps) How does a 20thcentury museum mirror the international past of museums?
Lessons 5 and 6 Museums as a “language”: tools, aims and experiences in museum-communications. Teaching and learning through museum displays. Visitors as “meaning makers” (CARBONELL: Chapters: 7, p.104, PORTER; 34, p.348, KAVANAGH; 44, p.436, FISHER: 52, p.556, HOOPER-GREENHILL).
Lesson 7 Dreaming of a “valley of Eden”: museums and Conservation. Scientific backgrounds, budgetary constraints and political contradictions in the life of contemporary museums.
Lesson 8 on site A visit to the site & museum at the new “Auditorium of Rome”.
(Architect Renzo Piano, 2004). www.auditorium.com/en/auditorium/
Archaeological sites, site-museums and the urban space
Lessons 9 and 10 Museums and Society: museums, communities and their “memories”. History, history-making and the manyfold role of museums. Wars, atrocities and their echo in museums. Local expectations, the “heritage industry” and the trails of “global tourism” (CARBONELL:
Chapters: 8, p.117,DUFFY; 9, p.123, FRIMAN; 32, p.318, CRANE;
43, p.431, BOURDIEU)
Lesson 11 on site A visit to the new National Museum for the Arts of the 21st century (MAXXI), designed and built by the “star-architect” Ms.
. Zaha Hadid, first open to the public in 2010. www.fondazionemaxxi.it
Museums and their architecture as “per-se attractions”
Lesson 12 Museums today and in the near future: temple, ark, or stage? The risks of a “commodification of History”. The changing concept of “authenticity” and our perception of restorations, presentations and interpretations in museums and beyond (CARBONELL: Chapters:29, p.302, KENNEDY; 50, p.521, DAVALOS; 51,p.541,GREENBLATT).
(Please note that a total of about 35 $ will be spent for entrance fees in museums)
GRADING: The final grade for this course will be calculated in accordance with the following percentages:
Active class participation.................................... 10%
The grading scale adopted will be:
(A) 100-93 (A-) 92-90 (B+) 89-87 (B) 86-83
(B-) 82-80 (C+) 79-77 (C) 76-73 (C-) 72-70
(D+) 69-67 (D) 66-60 (F) below 60
DEADLINES AND IMPORTANT DATES for the semester :
see above for details
Midterm exam .........................................March 1st
Choice of topic for “home-projects”......... before March 1st
Deadline for submitting papers .......... .... before March 29
VALID FOR THE SPRING SEMESTER OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR 2011/2012
Updated October 25, 2011