University Museums: Collections in Academia and Their Uses

This seminar offers an examination of a wide range of museums within universities, considering research, teaching, and public outreach, as well as their relationships with each other, and with faculty. The focus will be on case studies, including the Cambridge, Göttingen, Glasgow, Harvard, Kansas, Oxford, Michigan, Minnesota, Uppsala, Wisconsin-Madison, and Yale. Themes include their formation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the growth of specialized collections in conjunction with new disciplines; university museums as sites for collecting, describing, and categorizing; display and exhibitions versus storage, study rooms, and laboratories; curators as faculty, faculty as curators; conservation and conservation science; relations between university museums and university libraries; and university museums as interfaces with the public. An important topic will be possible futures for university museums. Will university administrations trivialize their museums or will they reinvigorate them as part of a “tangible turn” in scholarship? What are the roles of national and ethnic identity in university museums? What would it be to decolonize and diversify university museums in North America and Europe? 3 credits.