Specialisms (1): Museum & Knowledge

Specialisms is our last teaching module. In January we had an exciting voting poll to choose our specialism between six disciplines: green, global, digital, education, heritage, and knowledge. The last one is a fairly new one and is the first time to be offered, so on the registration, there was certainly a race for the scarcity of 10 positions in that course. As a result, there wasn’t enough students for global and green museum, and these two were cancelled. One of my friends who signed up for global museum was really disappointed because frankly, the issues of decolonizing museum, which were scheduled for that discipline, were the main reason she applied for the master course. She eventually came to museum & knowledge (M&K) and there were 11 of us.

It is not hard to understand why there was such a high interest for M&K. The discipline being new is one reason, but I think the peculiar topics and several field trips also were enticing.

This specialism will explore the role of collections and objects in the production of modern knowledge, and traces how global movements of artefacts have historically facilitated the flow of ideas around the world. Archaeology, anthropology, art history, medicine, zoology, literature — each of these disciplines have their foundational collections, many of which were collected, assembled, categorized and formalized over the past 500 years. Each discipline approaches the study of these materials differently, but Museum Studies offers a distinctive interdisciplinary lens through which to explore and critically analyse how cultural artefacts and knowledge are historically interconnected and are continually (re)produced in contemporary practice. (Text/Dr. Gemma Angel)

This is a the first paragraph of the introduction quoted from the course site. When choosing our specialisms, most of us considered how this last module could act as a preface to our research project (dissertation). Some of us were already reaching out to suitable professors. I, too had weighed how every discipline could help my project. At that time (late January), I was 60% certain that I would write about movie props, and this is why M&K was my definite decision. I was the fourth to be registered and it was a close race: the registration time marks of the 10 students were only seconds apart.

Prof Gemma Angel was one of the course moderator in the module of object care and management, along with Prof Dave Unwin. She was the one who demonstrated the correct way to feed the leeches, and it was a trivial but cool factor that drawn people to this discipline.

I admit that I didn’t really understand what we were about to learn, even after reading the introduction. However, I was clear that this module was going to solve, or to unlock, the basics of museum learning. The concept of epistemology hadn’t yet existed in my mind, but I had known that object learning and object biography were two major parts not only for my project but also my field of interest.

Picture from the course website. Top (L) Victorian hairwork mourning jewellery; (R) Glass eyes;
Bottom (L) Pervian mummy; © Roman fascinum amulet; (R) Sri Lankan mask.
Wellcome Collection, London. (Text/Dr. Gemma Angel)

In the following posts, I would recount several findings along with places I visited within the module.

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The Atlas of Muses

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Guey-Mei HSU

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The Atlas of Muses

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