MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Heritage, Museums & Conflict

Course unit fact file
Unit code CAHE60462
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The aim of the course is to develop students’ understanding of the history, theory, ethics and politics of heritage and museums practice in contexts of conflict and difficult heritage, drawing on material from across a wide spectrum of modern and ancient case studies that speak to relevant, and often controversial, contemporary issues. Students will explore issues of theory and practice in a range of institutional settings, in the UK and internationally, including difficult and contested narratives, conservation and conflict zones, contemporary collecting and memory, memorials, civil rights and creative resistance, war and post-war heritage engagement, identity in conflict (soldiers, civilians, victims - ancient and modern), human remains, dark tourism and museums of civil wars.   

Each week focuses on a key area of practice and theory, and includes student-led activities, fieldwork and professional presentations. The aim is to stimulate critical reflection, as well as enable students to acquire nuanced and contextualized knowledge and understanding of some of the key intellectual, ethical, professional and political questions posed by, and of, heritage and museums in the context of conflict. 


 The aims of the unit are to:

1. Equip students with thorough knowledge and understanding of the social, spatial, ethical, political and financial and historical contexts of heritage, museums and conflict situations

2. Investigate the interrelations between curating, designing, making, documenting, expressing and communicating conflict

3. Map the development of the concept and practice of heritage and museums practice in conflict internationally, nationally, regionally and locally.

4. Introduce and apply key concepts in heritage theory to the critical analysis of conflict at the national, institutional or community level.

5. Prepare students for work-based practice through the interaction with heritage professionals and the opportunity to debate critical issues in policy and practice.

6. Develop students' skills in preparing and chairing meetings, conducting debate and facilitating discussion.

7. Develop students' research and written communication skills and styles.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the field of heritage, museums and conflict and its social, spatial, ethical, political and financial contexts
  • Analyse the historical and contemporary development of heritage, museums and conflict
  • Identify and evaluate diverse approaches to the theoretical and critical analysis of difficult heritage and narratives of conflict
  • Understand the interrelations between curating, designing, making, documenting, expressing and communicating in the context of conflict and post-conflict reconciliation


Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate a capacity to apply theoretical and critical concepts to the understanding and analysis of heritage and museums practice in conflict situations
  • Apply disciplinary knowledge and understanding to an analysis of institutional policies/practices.
  • Conduct independent research in order to produce a sustained, analytical enquiry into an aspect of heritage, museums and conflict.
  • Design, research and present empirical research, determining and implementing a reflexive and appropriate methodology
  • Apply skills and ideas learned in one institutional context to another, while remaining aware of the complexity of the issues
  • Lead and participate in informed debate about key issues affecting policy and practice today.


Practical skills

  • Identify, describe and document heritage and museums practice in conflict contexts
  • Apply research methods to understand curators, educators, makers, uses and audiences of heritage and museums in conflict
  • Collaborate effectively with fellow students.
  • Prepare and deliver a short oral presentation, and respond to questions and discussions.
  • Conduct effective fieldwork as part of an institutional analysis.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Plan and deliver presentations, chair discussions, provide feedback
  • Communicate information and ideas effectively in a professional, as well as an academic, environment.
  • Retrieve, select and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources, including museums, archives, libraries and the Web.
  • Work effectively within a team


Employability skills

- Communicate the value and applicability of critical heritage thinking into organisational practice - Articulate key challenges in heritage and museums in contexts of conflict - Appreciate the impact of cultural, ethnic and other contexts on difficult heritage and conflict - Manage time efficiently - Generate ideas and think laterally - Map career directions and trajectories

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%
Assessment Task Formative or Summative Weighting with unit (If Summative)
Group presentation: reflection on a conflict heritage site Formative 0%
Essay Summative 100%


Feedback methods

Feeback Method Formative or Summative
Essay Proposal surgery and written comments Formative
Academic advisor meeting Formative
Essay feedback and mark Formative and Summative
Group presentation Formative


Recommended reading


Barkan, E and R. Bush (eds) 2002. Claiming the Stones, Naming the Bones: cultural property and the negotiation of national and ethnic identity. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.

Berenbaum, M.  (2000) The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust Memorial Museum  Little Brown & Co

Benton, T. (2010) Understanding Heritage and Memory. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Cuno, J. B. 2008. Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over our Ancient Heritage. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Defreeze, M. 2009. Kosovo: Cultural Heritage in Conflict. Journal of Conflict Archaeology vol. 5, issue 1: 257-269.

Duffy, T. (2001) “Museums of ‘Human Suffering’ and the Struggle for Human Rights” reprinted in Bettina Messias Carbonell (ed) (2004) Museum Studies. An Anthology of Contexts. Oxford: Blackwell,  pp. 117-123

Durbin, S.C. (1999) “Battle Royal: The Final Mission of the Enola Gay” Displays of Power. Memory and Amnesia in the American Museum. New York University Press. pp 186-226

Evans, M. and K. Lun  (eds.) (1997) War and memory in the twentieth century. New York: Berg

Fussell, P. (1975, 2000) The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford University Press.

Harrison, R. 2012. Heritage: Critical Approaches. London: Routledge.

Harrison, R. 2008. Understanding the Politics of Heritage. Manchester: Manchester University Press

Harwit, M. (1996) Exhibit Denied: Lobbying the History of Enola Gay  New York: Springer-Verlag

Jenkins, T. 2010. Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections. London: Routledge.

Jones, S. 2005. Making place, resisting displacement: conflicting national and local identities in Scotland. In, J. Littler and R. Naidoo (eds) The Politics of Heritage: ‘Race’, identity and national stories. Routledge, London.

Lohman, J. and Goodnow, K. 2006. Human Remains and Museum Practice. London, Museum of London/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Macdonald, S. (2008) Difficult Heritage: Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond. Routledge

Merryman, J.H., 2009. Thinking About the Elgin Marbles: Critical Essays on Cultural Property, Art and Law. Kluwer Law International.

Meskell, L.M. (ed.), Archaeology Under Fire: Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, pp. London: Routledge.

Riggs, C. 2014. Unwrapping Ancient Egypt. London: Bloomsbury.

Smith, L. (2006) Uses of Heritage. London: Routledge.

Sontag, S. (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others, Farrar Straus Giroux

Stone, P.G. 2012. Human Rights and Cultural Property Protection in Times of Conflict. International Journal of Heritage Studies 18(3): 271–284.

Linenthal, E.T. (1995) Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum. Ithaka: Columbia University Press.

Winter, J. and J. Murray (1995) Sites of Sites of memory, sites of mourning : the Great War in

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
External visits 6
Lectures 21
Independent study hours
Independent study 123

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Stuart Campbell Unit coordinator

Additional notes

  • 21 hours of contact time (blended 3 lecture and seminar for 7 weeks); this includes 3 hours of coursework support. Individual supervision and consultation available through scheduled weekly office hours.
  • 6 hours of field trips (subject to government rules)
  • 123 hours of independent study

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