MUSEUMS 498-002

Special Museums Topics:
Decolonizing Museums - Colonialism, Collections and Repatriation

Haven Hall 1713
M W 4:00pm - 5:30pm
3 Credit Lecture

Traces of European colonization are found in museums around the world, and leave their considerable impact on collections, visitors, and communities. This course provides students with the opportunity to explore the history behind the construction of colonial collections, to learn about issues related to provenance and cultural property, and the politics, ethics, and problematics of working with contested collections, objects, and artifacts. We start with an exploration of how colonial collections, and entire colonial museums, came into being. What were the practices and ideas of obtaining, collecting and looting objects and artifacts in the colonial context? Then, we divert our gaze to the result of this colonial project of collection and acquisition. Where are these objects now and how are they classified and exhibited in museums today? Finally, we assess initiatives of decolonization, digitization, repatriation, restitution, and return. Who are the rightful owners of these objects? What does it mean to decolonize a museum? Is this even possible? What are the practicalities and the legal repercussions of repatriation, restitution, and return? This course provides students with the opportunity to engage with these questions by reading relevant texts, zoom in on a number of case studies, learn from guest lectures and workshops by museum curators, and by designing their own proposal for a (museum) exhibition.

Meets with HISTORY 328.003 (home department)