SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Curating Cultures Cohort A

Module Code:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

Curating Cultures is designed to equip students with a range of critical, theoretical and practical approaches to curating. Themes and issues addressed on the course will include: histories and ideologies of curating; theories of collecting, interpreting objects and writing exhibition texts; contemporary issues and critical debates; exhibition programming and design; collections management and conservation. In particular, the course will provide an in-depth knowledge of the practical, intellectual and ethical issues involved in the interpretation and display of the SOAS teaching collections, and will culminate in student-led, group exhibitions of these collections in the Lady David Gallery. By providing practical, hands-on experiences of curating, the course will develop students’ knowledge and understanding of aspects of the exhibition development process, as well as team-working, organisational and communication skills. The course will appeal to students wishing to pursue careers as curators in museums or galleries in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.


  • This Module is capped at 25 places
  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office.
  • Please note that this module will run three times in 2017-18, with one session in Term 1 and 2 sessions in Term 2.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the theory and practice of curating.
  •  Critically analyse the role of museums and galleries in the production of meaning and value to objects via practices of collecting, display, conservation and interpretation.
  •  Appreciate the institutional and professional contexts within which curators work.
  •  Identify the specific issues arising from researching, interpreting and displaying the SOAS teaching collections.
  •  Gain experience of team-based work, exhibition development and presentation skills.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

1. Introduction: histories and ideologies of curating
2. The SOAS collections
3. Theories of collecting
4. Interpreting objects
5. Interpreting museum texts
6. Contemporary curating: issues and debates
7. Exhibition planning and design
8. Collections management and conservation
9. Installation of student exhibitions in Lady David Gallery
10. Group presentations

Method of assessment

  • One 2 000 words essay (worth 70%)
  • One 1 000 words group exhibition portfolio and one 20 minutes group presentation (worth 30%)

Suggested reading

  • Barker, E (ed) (1999) Contemporary Cultures of Display, Yale University Press.
  • Carbonell, B. M. (2004) Museum studies: an anthology of contexts, Oxford: Blackwell.
  •  Greenberg, R., Ferguson, B. W., and Nairne, S. (eds) (1996) Thinking about exhibitions, London: Routledge.
  • Karp and Lavine (eds.) (1991) Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, Washington: Smithsonian.
  • Kreps, C. (2003) Liberating culture: cross-cultural perspectives on museum, curation and heritage preservation, London and New York: Routledge.
  • Macdonald, S.  (ed) (2006) A Companion to Museum Studies, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Macdonald and Basu (eds) (2007) Exhibition Experiments, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Obrist, H. (ed) (2008) A Brief History of Curating, Zurich: JRP/Ringier.
  • Pearce, S (ed.) (1994) Interpreting objects & collections, Leicester: Leicester University Press.
  • Preziosi and Farago (eds) (2004) Grasping the world: the idea of the museum, Aldershot: Ashgate.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules