SOAS University of London

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Curating Cultures Cohort B

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

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 either in the Lady David Gallery or in a digital format. 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 20 places

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-word essay (worth 70%)
  • One 1,000-word group exhibition portfolio and one 20-minute 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