KULH2008 – Museum: a Cultural History

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Museums are places where objects tell stories, and where stories are materialized through objects. Public museums emerged in the course of the 18th century, and they remain one of the most important cultural institutions of our time. Their predecessors were private collections, owned by princes and scholars. Today, there are museums for the most varied topics and objects: from art objects to milk cartons, from Viking ships to toys. At their inception, museums conveyed simple, unifying narratives of the nation, its people and history. Today, museum narratives are much more complex and varied.

The course is structured in two parts, where the first part is a series of lectures with a broad theoretical focus on museums as producers of knowledge. The second part of the course includes lectures devoted to specific museum categories combined with excursions and activities in relevant museums. The aim is to enable students to link the theoretical discussions of the lectures with concrete museum practices and contexts.

Learning outcome

This course provides you with knowledge and tools to develop critical thinking and analytical approaches to the study of the museum institution as a producer of knowledge, as well as the cultural and political roles of museums – nationally, internationally, and globally.

After finishing the course you will be able to:

  • place the origins and development of museums within the European historical contexts from the 16th century to today;
  • understand the concept of the museum in a broader, cross-cultural, non-Eurocentric perspective;
  • identify the main narratives that museums convey today, understand how these have changed historically, and grasp how narratives are constructed and communicated in museums;
  • understand, also in an historical perspective, the multiple processes and practices through which objects have been constructed as ‘valuable’ in museums;
  • develop a critical understanding of the diverse set of museological practices, collections, audiences, and challenges that characterize various museum categories (such as art, natural history, folk, ethnographic museums etc.)
  • conduct a critical analysis of an exhibition, that is, identify and critically examine the main elements (visual, textual, sensory etc.) that contribute to create meaning in a display;
  • write academic texts developing critical analyses of museological practices, informed by relevant museological theories and concepts.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

Good English skills are necessary.

Previous knowledge of museum-relevant topics (for instance in archaeology, anthropology, history, cultural history, art history, and conservation) is not a prerequisite, but will be an asset.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with KULH2002 – Museenes kulturhistorie (discontinued)


Autumn 2020: Teaching will follow the guidelines for preventing the spread of Covid-19. A detailed plan for the semester will show which activities will be digital, and this will be updated by the beginning of August.

There will not be a requirement for compulsory attendance for teaching which is done digitally, but we strongly recommend that you follow all the teaching

The teaching is given as lectures and museum excursions to museums in the Oslo region. The excursions are mandatory. Teaching activities such as seminars and discussions will be part of the museum excursions.

The course is structured in two parts:
The first part is composed of a series of lectures with a broad theoretical focus on museums as producers of knowledge. These lectures provide you with a foundational knowledge on such topics as the origins and development of museums, museum narratives, and display techniques.

The second part of the course has a more specific and applied character: it is composed of lectures devoted to specific museum categories (such art museums, ethnographic museums, natural history museums etc.) combined with excursions and activities in relevant museums.

Mandatory assignments:

Participation in excursions (at least 2 out of 5)

Connected to the Museum excursions: submit a text of 1 page (around 2300 characters, not including spaces) about the excursion. The text needs to be submitted via Canvas within the week following each excursion

If you cannot attend one or more museum excursions, you will still need to submit a text of 1 page (around 2300 characters, not including spaces) about the museum that hosted the excursion you missed. This text can be based on prior visit and/or digital or bibliographic sources; it will need to be submitted via Canvas within the week following each excursion. 

It is mandatory to submit at least 2 out of 5 texts.

In the second half of the semester, you must submit a working draft of your final paper ( max 3 pages) on which you will obtain feedback.

Dates for submission of excursion texts and exam essay draft will be communicated at the beginning of the course.

All obligatory qualifying assignments must be approved in order to qualify for the exam. It is the student’s responsibility to check whether or not the compulsory activities are approved. This is how you apply for valid absence from compulsory activities/compulsory attendance.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


In order to take the final exam, it is a pre-condition that you have satisfactorily fulfilled the mandatory assignments (see above) within the set deadlines.

The course final exam is an essay of max. 8 pages (around 2300 characters per page, not including spaces).

General assessment guidelines. 

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






The course is taught for the first time autumn 2020 


The exam is offered for the first time autumn 2020 

Teaching language