Curating Cultures

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Module overview

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 Wolfson Gallery, SOAS Library. 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.

Students taking this module should refer to the module's current Moodle page for the latest updates.


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 tutorial

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 Wolfson Gallery, SOAS Library
  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