MC3OA-Object Analysis and Museum Interpretation

Module Provider: The Museum of English Rural Life
Number of credits: 20 [10ECTS credits]
Level: 6
Terms in which taught: Autumn
Module Convenor: Ms R Reynolds
Modules excluded: MC2OA
Module version for: 2010/1


Material culture is all around us, yet few people know how to analyse and interpret its meaning to others. This module explores the methods used by museum professionals to analyse objects and communicate their meaning to the general public. It is designed for students who are undertaking object-based research or who may be planning on a career in archaeology, galleries/museums or education.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of this module it is expected that students will be able:
- To demonstrate understanding of the principles of collections management, object analysis and museum interpretation.
- To apply these principles in cataloguing, labeling and 'interpreting' a specific object.
- To research an object using archival resources, first-hand analysis, other objects and specialist library materials.

Additional outcomes:
Students will develop their observational and recording skills through in-depth analysis of specific museum objects. Students' communication skills will be further developed as they learn how to write for different audiences; they will also learn how to use archival and specialist library resources to research objects. Through planning their research projects students will develop their time management, networking, information literacy and problem solving skills.

Outline content:
This module is a practical introduction to analysing and interpreting objects. Students will be taught how to analyse different types of artefacts using observational skills, archival resources and basic material culture theory. The range of objects will include film, photography, paintings, written documents, and three-dimensional objects etc. Students will learn to explore the interpretive potential of artefacts and to discuss how museums can unlock this. Using examples from a range of museums, this module will examine the theoretical issues surrounding modern exhibition text and display. It will also investigate how practical concerns, such as conservation and collections' management, may impact on interpretation and 'access'.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
This module will be taught in the Museum of English Rural Life. Lectures will introduce theory and practice while seminars will involve practical analysis and research of museum objects.The assignments are designed to engage students with research. There will be support structures in place but students will be responsible for the management of their own research.

Contact hours:

  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Tutorials/seminars 10     
Other contact (eg study visits) 1 (introduction to MERL facilities)     
Total hours 21     
Number of essays or assignments    
Other (eg major seminar paper)    

60% Through collections-based research, use of theory and first-hand analysis develop 4-6 exhibition ideas for a chosen object. To be assessed by a 3000-4000 word essay.

15%: Complete a catalogue entry form for an assigned object with a discussion (max.1000 words) of analysis and research.

15% Design an object label for an assigned object with a discussion (max. 1000 words) of the methods employed.

10%: Oral presentation (10 minutes) analysing an example of ´┐Żinterpretation´┐Ż from another museum or gallery.

Relative percentage of coursework:

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission of coursework will be in accordance with University Policy.


Requirements for a pass
A mark of 40% overall

Reassessment arrangements
Re-submission of coursework in August/September

Last updated: 30 April 2010

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