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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Archaeology

ARCH50130: Approaches to Museum and Artefact Studies

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22
Tied to V6K607 Museum and Artefact Studies


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module aims to provide a challenging intellectual underpinning for the entire MA in Museum and Artefact Studies. One of its aims is to provide students with a basic social science training of relevance to research in museum and artefact studies. It also sets out to discuss and define the scope and aims of museum and artefact studies and their status within the broader context of the social sciences. It examines theories of museum studies, with particular reference to themes such as museum histories, architecture, collections, collecting, society and politics.


  • Current issues and debates in the social sciences.
  • Method and practice in archaeological research.
  • Examination of specific debates in museum and artefact studies.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A range of major humanistic and scientific approaches, techniques, key terms, concepts, themes and debates relating to the study of museums and artefacts.
  • The historical development, context, nature and purposes of museums.
  • Key contemporary issues facing a specific type of museum (art, social history, archaeology, ethnography or science).
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Analyse, interpret critically, draw justifiable conclusions from, synthesise, present and acknowledge museum- and artefact-related research information (including both quantitative and qualitative information from publications and tutors).
Key Skills:
  • Use computer and information technology (e.g. word processing).
  • Access library and World Wide Web resources.
  • Undertake advanced independent study, research and problem solving.
  • Communicate information and arguments effectively, in written, visual and computerised form, to specialist audiences.
  • Take responsibility for personal, professional and ethical development within the museum and cultural heritage sector or within academia, responding actively to critical feedback.
  • Manage time effectively, working to time-tables and meeting deadlines.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures, comprising concise, accessible and interesting oral and visual presentations of key information, by tutors to the full programme cohort of students, supported by the extensive programme bibliography and summaries posted on the Durham University On-Line (DUO) intranet. Lectures enable learners to gain a sound knowledge and critical understanding of the full range of subject-specific knowledge.
  • Seminars, comprising structured oral and visual presentations and discussions of well-defined topics, by individual or groups of students to the rest of the full programme cohort and facilitated by tutors, supported by the programme bibliography and summaries posted on DUO. Seminars enable learners to deepen their knowledge and critical understanding of a wide range of subject-specific knowledge, to enhance subject-specific skills in working with museum- and artefact-related research information, and to enhance key skills in the use of computer and information technology, accessing information resources, undertaking advanced independent study, participating responsibly in team work, communicating effectively, and managing time effectively.
  • Self-guided learning, comprising personal and group-based study, research, revision, problem-solving and evaluation associated with classes and assignments. Self-guided learning enables students to increase their knowledge and critical understanding of the full range of subject-specific knowledge, and to gain experience and competence in the full range of subject-specific skills and key skills.
  • 2 Essays, comprising 2500-word knowledgeable and critical written discussions of given topics in museum studies. The Essays ensure demonstration of the achievement of a sound knowledge and critical understanding of a range of subject-specific knowledge relating to museums, the achievement of direct experience and competence in the subject-specific skill of working with museum- and artefact-related research information, and the achievement of a range of key skills. Formative assessment, accompanied by written feedback from tutors, is regarded as an integral part of the learning process. It helps learners to consolidate knowledge and understanding and to explore and develop subject-specific and key skills. A range of formative assignments therefore precede a selection of summative assignments on all modules within the programme. These relate to specific learning outcomes, as well as a few additional learning outcomes not assessed summatively.
  • The formative assignments include: An Essay Plan, of 300 words, which helps to consolidate knowledge and understanding of the historical development, context, nature and purposes of museums, and helps to plan the use of skills working with museum-related data.
  • 2 Seminar Presentations, of between 10 and 50 minutes, help to consolidate knowledge and understanding of topics relating to museum studies, the management of collections and museums, artefact studies and museum communication, help to develop the subject-specific skill of working with research data, and help to develop a range of key skills, as well as helping to develop oral communication skills.
  • Written feedback on seminar presentations deals with the following areas: choice of topic, including appropriateness of title; knowledge of the subject, including definition of its scope and key issues; clarity of explanations of key terms and concepts; clarity of structure; use of examples; use and clarity of appropriate visual materials; facilitation of discussion, including response to questions; presentation, including pace and tone of delivery, vocal clarity and projection; audience attention, including eye contact and audience response; and anxiety behaviour.
  • A Curriculum Vitae, which helps to develop the key skills of using computer and information technology, communicating effectively in written form, and taking responsibility for personal development, as well as helping to develop career planning skills.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 hour 10
Practicals 3 Every 3 weeks 2-3 hours 15
Preparation & Reading 266
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essays Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2,500 words 50%
Essay 2,500 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

The students select two presentations relating to topics covered in the taught class at the start of the academic year. There is the option to change their selection later in either term. They are encouraged to select a topic that relates to either of their two summative assignments or their professional interests. Informal 1:1 feedback is given to each student on their presentation content and delivery. The presentation has several aims: to build the confidence of the student presenting and discussing approaches to museum and artefact studies; to deepen their critical knowledge of approaches to museum and artefact studies; to provide the foundations for their summative assignments and/or professional development.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University