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The University of Southampton

ARCH6421 Museums in the Modern World

Module Overview

This module examines the past, present and future of heritage communication. It will explore the ever-changing purposes and practices espoused by and employed by heritage bodies, including museums, with a primary but not exclusive focus on UK institutions. The broad contextual study of the heritage dynamic will encompass the development of heritage communication, public engagement with the past and the debates around authority, protection and control. This context will provide the background to more detailed case studies, including fieldtrips as well as practical activity linked to the construction of interpretive schemes. The theoretical frameworks which underpin the construction of such interpretive schemes will be examined as well as the shifting political, social and economic contexts which drive the delivery of heritage interpretation. Note, this module cannot be taken by students who have completed ARCH3017: Presenting the Past, and vice versa.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • a systematic understanding of the history of museums and their place in the modern world;
  • a critical understanding of the theoretical frameworks underpinning heritage interpretation and presentation;
  • a systematic knowledge of museum policy frameworks and funding;
  • an in-depth understanding of the professional context of museums;
  • a systematic understanding of the practical processes required to deliver exhibitions in museums.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critique and present your own evaluation, analysis and synthesis of key issues relating to cultural heritage;
  • apply, with critical awareness, appropriate theoretical frameworks and practical approaches to relevant debates;
  • integrate the results from your own research or fieldwork with that of others to answer specific questions;
  • plan, develop and implement creative solutions to heritage issues through the application of appropriate skills and interpretative frameworks;
  • critique museum presentations and prepare exhibition design proposals for non-professional audiences.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate evidence on paper or in the field;
  • work effectively alone and/or as part of a team to meet deadlines and reflect on own or others' functioning in order to improve practice;
  • apply and develop key skills in critical thinking and analysis, written communication, information-handling and professional presentation;


Heritage communication and presentation in the past; the birth of the museum; museums in the modern world; theoretical developments underpinning heritage interpretation and presentation. debates around value; protecting whilst presenting the past; policies and funding; implementing a practical interpretive scheme.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures Seminars Visit to heritage sites Practical activity

External visits12
Completion of assessment task60
Preparation for scheduled sessions44
Practical classes and workshops12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Dean, D. (1997). Museum Exhibition. Theory and practice.. 

Lord, B and G. Lord. (eds) (2002). The Manual of Museum Exhibitions. 

Black, G. (2012). Transforming Museums in the twenty-first Century. 

Marstine, J. (ed.) (2006). New Museum Theory and Practice. 

Ambrose, T. and C. Paine.  (2012). Museum Basics. 


Assessment Strategy

Formative This module has been designed around providing substantial amounts of formative feedback within the classroom environment through the provision of student-led seminars and formative input to the practical development of an interpretive scheme. This will allow students to receive formative feedback in advance of the summative assessment of the interpretive scheme. Summative There is one assessed essay which allows students to select an area of heritage communication/interpretation which they are keen to explore. The assessed interpretive scheme gives the students the opportunity to interpret and present heritage for museum displays and exhibitions.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Project  (4000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Project  (4000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Extended Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Field Trips

Costs of travel to, and entry fees for museums and heritage sites will be met by the University. Students will be expected to provide their own food.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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