MC2CCM-Curatorship and Collections Management

Module Provider: The Museum of English Rural Life
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Rhi Smith


Type of module:

Summary module description:
A practical introduction to researching, cataloguing, interpreting and displaying museum objects. The module is based on work with objects from the University of Reading's collections. Students will choose one object from the stores, and are assessed on three assignments based on researching, labelling and displaying the object.

This module explores the methods used by museum professionals to store, catalogue, and research objects and communicate their meaning to the general public.

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 and object analysis and display.
- Apply these principles in cataloguing, labelling, and interpreting a specific object.
- Research an object using archival resources, other museum 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 assessed tasks students will develop their time management, networking, information literacy and problem solving skills.

Outline content:
Material culture is all around us, yet few people know how to analyse and interpret its meaning to others. This module is a practical introduction to researching, analysing, cataloguing, conserving and interpreting objects. Lectures will introduce students to the relevant museum theory which informs these activities. Using case studies from a range of museums, this module will examine the theoretical and ethical issues connected with exhibition text and display techniques. Students will be taugh t how to analyse different types of artefacts using observational skills, archival resources and basic material culture theory. The range of objects studied will include film, photography, paintings, written documents, books and artefacts. Students will learn to explore the interpretive potential of artefacts and discuss how museums can unlock the multiple meanings of everyday objects. The module will also investigate how practical concerns, such as conservation and collections management, may impact on interpretation and public 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. Lectures will be interactive and will include contributions by MERL archive, curatorial, education and conservation staff, who will connect their areas of expertise to wider issues regarding museums. Seminars will provide the opportunity to clarify and interrogate elements of lectures and will also be used to d iscuss and check progress on course tasks. Group activities in seminars will develop student's interpersonal, research and communication skills. Assignments ask students to apply theory to practice and are designed to engage students in research.
Students will have the opportunity to draw on the expertise of MERL staff while conducting archival research in the Reading Room. Student research will be supported through 2 practical sessions: Introduction to archival research; Cataloguing, doc umentation and accessioning procedures.

This is a 20 credit module, which means that it is intended to occupy you for 200 hours of work: seminar preparation, background reading, essay reading, writing, and in the case of the undergraduates: revision and sitting the examination. With that in mind the kind of workload you should expect might be as follows:
- 20 hours Contact hours in formal teaching sessions
- 2 hours Behind the scenes workshops at MERL
- 1 hour Smal l group session (5 or less) on writing up practical work
- 1 hour Behind the scenes tour of a local collection
- 16 hours Visiting museums taking notes on interpretation strategies and labelling. Staff will provide guidance on planning visits.
- 30 hours Researching your object. Specialist staff will be available to assist you with accessing objects, catalogue data and archival material.
- 40 hours Engaged in reading, preparation and writing your essay.
- 90 hours B ackground reading for lectures and seminars

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 10
Project Supervision 1
Practicals classes and workshops 2
Supervised time in studio/workshop 30
External visits 17
Guided independent study: 130
Total hours by term 200
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

• 20% catalogue form and accompanying 800 word essay on chosen object • 20% two labels and accompanying 800 word essay on chosen object • 60% display design and accompanying 1,500 word essay on chosen object

Formative assessment methods:
Group project delivered by oral presentation with handout.

Research with objects and archives will be supported by specialist staff. Staff will assist students in navigating catalogues and accessing original materials. Research in the Reading Room and Museum is listed under 'contact hours' because of this staff support, which will help students develop their data retrieval skills. However, the timing and nature of the research will be planned by students themselves.

Penalties for late submission:

The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:
A mark of 40% overall

Reassessment arrangements:
Re-submission of coursework in August/September

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
1) Required text books:
2) Specialist equipment or materials:
3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
4) Printing and binding:
5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

Last updated: 4 April 2020


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