Art history

The Order of Things: The Museum and its Objects

Module code: V4137A
Level 6
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay, Coursework

Drawing from the extensive collections of objects from around the world at the Victoria and Albert Museum, this module will address the fundamental questions of how and why these global objects were brought into the Museum. With a focus on objects from the Islamic collections in particular, on their material histories and the cultures from which they came, we will examine the motivations and mechanisms that were involved in the movement of objects to the museum and the contexts in which they were displayed and received. We will consider the history of global collecting at the V&A, the legacy of the Universal Exhibitions and practices of copying and replication that radically changed the way we view objects and their images today.

The focus of the module is on a particular body of material drawn from the collections of the museum, dating from a specific time and place; this is employed as a basis to study issues in museology and museum history as well as in art history and the history of culture. Thus the focus will inevitably be on how 19th-21st century art history has interpreted and explained these objects. You undertake some general reading in the history of museums and debates in museology.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate detailed and coherent critical evaluation of the visual culture relating to this subject within its historical context.
  • Develop an independently researched critical approach to the subject and present it in a written format.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the differing approaches of current art-historical scholarship about this subject.
  • Have an awareness and understanding of materials and techniques, and of some of the museological issues involved in collecting and exhibiting the art works studied.