The Museum Exhibition: Histories, Practices, Genres

Master of Museum Studies

MSL2331H — The Museum Exhibition: Histories, Practices, Genres

The exhibition is a museum’s main form of public engagement, and this course investigates the histories, processes and practices through which exhibitions have developed over time, within a Western and global context. Why do museums prioritize exhibitions over other forms of programming? Why do exhibitions succeed, and why do they fail? How do professional communities develop best practices, and how prone are such practices to change?

This course starts by introducing you to the foundational theoretical models developed by museum studies scholars and museum professionals to think about museum exhibitions. To explore these theories in practice, the course will zoom in on specific case studies and exhibition development strategies from diverse types of institutions, including art galleries, encyclopedic, history and natural history museums, science centers, historic and heritage sites. Within this framework, the course will expand on curation, interpretation and communication, three pillars of exhibition development which define the museological “front of house”.

This course embraces a holistic approach to the study of the museum exhibition, which requires that you observe exhibitions in their institutional and cultural contexts, and with the awareness that each institution is different in its approach to curation, interpretation and communication.

Note: Effective January 2020, new title is “The Museum Exhibition: Histories, Practices, Genres”. Former title was “Exhibitions, Interpretation, Communication”.