Our View of Museum Studies
A central principle of the School is to realise the full potential of interdisciplinary working. Museum Studies is an academic field that did not exist in the UK or internationally until the establishment of this department. The School developed its present research identity by building upon the rigour of research practice in other disciplines, the field of museum studies being best understood as situated at the interstices between:
A. Disciplines which produce, study and curate museum collections (natural sciences, archaeology, anthropology, history, art history, etc.);
B. Disciplines which offer critical theory and methods (anthropology, sociology and history; and, feminist, communication, education, cultural and cultural policy studies, etc.);
C. Professional disciplines possessing a pragmatic approach to the solution of museum ‐related problems (such as conservation, education and information management).
These factors determine our makeup and internal dynamic, as well as our research agenda. They are enshrined in a set of values that have guided the School’s development.
The School’s approach to this rich interdisciplinarity has been to view museum studies as an unbounded intellectual space within which theory, method and practice can be fused into new ideas and approaches. This vision for the discipline originated in Leicester, the School’s relatively large size making this a practical strategy.
Our staff and research students come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and possess qualifications in history of art and architecture, anthropology, archaeology, design, education, engineering, environment, ethnography, feminism, geography, cultural and social history, history of science, computer science, cultural policy studies, palaeontology, philosophy, sociology and so on. They form a strong and cohesive unit because its members are focused on museums, heritage, culture and related phenomenon.
Staff work within and across two overlapping groupings formed around:
(i) the cultural production of the museum (the production and operation of objects, architecture, policy, knowledge, politics, myths and media) composed of Dudley, Gibson, Knell, MacLeod, Parry, Unwin and Watson, and;
(ii) the social agency of the museum (museum audience and profession focused and tackling social justice, human rights, equality, ethics and learning) composed of Dodd, Golding, Marstine, Sandell and Vavoula.
The two groups complement each other by effectively looking at issues from opposing perspectives: together they interrogate the museum society constructs and the society museums shape.