CC 325 B - Museum, History, Culture
3 or 4 Credits
MWF 12:30-1:20 pm - Professor Buggeln

Museums reveal what cultures value most. In their architecture, collections, and public programs museums demonstrate how people organize knowledge, think about the past, and see themselves in relation to others. This seminar will examine the history of museums in Europe and America from the Renaissance to the present, tracing the development of a wide variety of institutions, including art museums, natural history museums, history museums, and science and technology museums. Topics will include the nature of collecting as a human activity, history and memory, museums and nationalism, culture as entertainment, and the politics of taste. We will pay close attention to challenges facing museums today, such as Native Americans’ demand for the return of human remains and artifacts, the politics of the representation of racial, ethnic, and religious difference, and the proper response to tragedies such as the Holocaust or 9/11.

Students will complete a take-home midterm and a term project analyzing one museum of their choice, requiring both a 15 –20 page paper and a final PowerPoint presentation. They will attend several local field trips and two Saturday field trips to Chicago. Major readings will include: Edward P. Alexander, Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Function of Museums (2007 edition), Thomas Hoving, Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1993), and Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology (1996).