Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

ClSt 389 Introduction to Museum Studies

Spring 2014

 Course Title: AN   INTRODUCTION   TO   MUSEUM   STUDIES    (ClSt 389)

                                       ( Occasionally  referred  to  also   as   CLASSICAL   BACKGROUNDS /  II


Instructor:                  Dr.Giovanni SCICHILONE


Address:                    Via Gran Bretagna, 20              

00196  ROMA                   


Phones:                     06 807 49 36       (home,  with answering machine,  9 am / 7 pm)

                                    348-82 77 331     (mobile,  9am / 7pm,  except urgent matters)


E-mail:                     giovanniscichilone@yahoo.it   



            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  SAKAI.   Personal  appointments  can be arranged   at the students’ discretion.      For  email contacts,  usually  answered  within  24 hours in  office  days,  see address  above.   For 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 4 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 27  at  the  very  latest.     No email messages can be accepted for grading.





(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 Sakai 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  contraddictions  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:



                                          “Home Project”.....................................................20%

                                          Active class participation.................................... 10%

                                          Final test...............................................................40%



                                                            The grading scale adopted will be:


                                          (A)   93-100         (A-)  89-92        (B+)  86-88        (B)  81-85

                                          (B-)  78-80           (C+)  75-77       (C) 71-74,5        (C-) 68-70,5

                                          (D+) 63-67,5        (D) 60-62,5       (F) 59 and below







The basic commitment  of a university is to search for and to communicate the truth as it is perceived.   The university  could  not  accomplish  its  purpose  in  the  absence  of  this demanding standard.  Students of this university are  called  upon  to know, to respect and to practice  this  standard   of   personal   honesty.    In  this  context,  it  will  be  given  for  granted  their knowledge of our University’s policy on matters regarding academic integrity  (please see:  www.luc.edu/academics/catalog/undergrad/reg_academicintegrity.shtml).







Taking into due account, as soon as issued, the finalized calendar for the semester, all important dates and deadlines for the students in this course will be listed in the final version of this syllabus.


                        The date for an extra-Friday class will be announced later.





                                                                                    VALID FOR THE SPRING SEMESTER

                                                                                    OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR  2013/2014



                                                                                 PRELIMINARY  VERSION