Special Topics in Museum Studies: Museums, Activism and Social Change


MSL2304H — Special Topics in Museum Studies: Museums, Activism and Social Change

This course explores the relationship between social change, activism, and museums from a global perspective, situating museums as sites of constant struggle. Recognizing that museums operate within distinct social and political contexts, this course provides an overview of selected social movements as they relate to museums and ultimately shape museum practice. Zooming in on various case studies of protests and reforms throughout museum history, the course demonstrates that critical and socially engaged museum practice is not a new phenomenon; rather, that its foundations have accompanied and affected the work of museum professionals since the early twentieth century. We will pursue such questions as: how have various communities used museums as spaces within which to push for social change? How have activists understood and disrupted museums and their processes? What is “museum activism” and what forms can it take (grassroots, professional, academic, etc.)? This course emphasizes activism within the museum sphere, which we will connect with concepts of power, social movements, and decolonization. Through the course’s readings and assignments, students will become prepared to engage in or respond to museum activism in their professional or academic practice.