LEAD 301
Museums: History and Practice Spring 2025
Division II
Cross-listed ARTH 401 / ARTH 501

Class Details

Art museums express the cultural, aesthetic and social ideals of their period of formation and many of those ideals remain embedded in the values and practices of institutions today. Comparing institutions past and present internationally, seminar participants will envision the art museum’s future while addressing programmatic and organizational challenges at this moment of participatory civic engagement and social, political unrest. With growing skepticism of institutional collecting practices and authoritative narratives, art museums, especially those in the US, face internal and external pressure to “decolonize” as they attempt to alter their canon through both acquisitions, deaccessioning and repatriation initiatives. There is pressure, as well, to embrace a more active role in climate and social justice movements. It is a time also marked by calls for compensation transparency, participatory decision making, staff and trustee diversity, and greater scrutiny of funders. The seminar will consider this environment against past and current norms of governance, management and curatorial policies and practices. We will examine the traditional role of architecture and installation in interpretation and experience, prevailing and proposed guidelines in the accessioning and deaccessioning of works of art and both internal and external attitudes towards the repatriation and restitution of cultural property. Studying museums ranging in size and type, seminar participants will hear how museum leaders are dealing with challenges to current practice in weekly zoom sessions. Participants will consider how future museums might strive to balance the institution’s traditional roles with new civic and social responsibilities, mindful of financial stability in a market-driven, metric-conscious, not-for-profit environment, while addressing, in proposed program and practice, the demands on museums emanating from a more ethically insistent internal and external world.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 14
Expected: 10
Class#: 3646
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: oral presentations and discussion in class and one seminar paper (with class presentation) at the end of the semester
Prerequisites: undergraduates should email [email protected] to schedule a discussion before registering for the course
Enrollment Preferences: graduate students in the history of art, then senior undergraduate art history majors, then other undergraduates
Unit Notes: satisfies the seminar requirement for the undergraduate Art History major
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARTH 401 Division I ARTH 501 Division I LEAD 301 Division II
Attributes: AMST Space and Place Electives
LEAD Facets or Domains of Leadership

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