BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Curating War and Human Rights: methods in cultural and public history

Unit code HIST32011
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


History students are equipped for exciting roles in public history, making knowledge available to the public through exhibitions, blogs, podcasts and television documentaries. This module trains students in making the history of war and conflict, and the growing field of human rights history, accessible to public audiences. Sessions alternate between historical case studies and practical workshops. The case studies centre on the two world wars and the impact of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example, colonial encounters in WW1, young people, refugees, prisoners and sexual violence. Workshops will equip students with both critical and practical skills, such as curatorial design, display techniques, writing exhibition labels and blog entries. Students will utilise the resources in local museums (e.g. the Imperial War Museum North, the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery). They will learn key transferable and teamwork skills, such as how to develop, design and pitch an exhibition proposal.


HIST32011 is restricted to History programmes, History joint honours programmes, and Euro Studies (please check your programme structure for further details).


Available on which programme(s)?

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas; and other relevant disciplines: Art History; Heritage Studies; Cultural Studies.

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?


Available to students on an Erasmus programme

Yes: Subject to VSO approval

Pre/Co/Antirequisite units


Medium of language





to introduce students to the techniques, skills and media through which historians can engage with non-academic audiences and advocate for innovations in public history;

To equip students with a strong grasp of the latest debates and historiographies about war and conflict, such as those arising from the centenary of World War I;

To develop critical capacity with new approaches in cultural methods; 

To extend students skills set in communicating their research via a variety of media

To provide new transferable skills such as with digital media, exhibition design, reviewing exhibitions and documentaries

To develop skills in identifying and building relationships with non-academic partners and audiences (the general public, the heritage industry, policy and third sector; curators).


Indicative Course Structure:

Wk 1 Encounters with Colonialism in the First World War

Wk 2. Digital Platforms: ‘Faces of War’ and ‘Mixing It’. IWMN visit. Podcasts.

Wk 3 Children and Young People in the World Wars

Wk 4 Picturing War History: using photographs, art and material culture

Wk 5 Displacement, Refugees and Prisoners

Wk 6: The Ethics and Aesthetics of War and Humanitarian Imagery

Wk 7 The Paradoxes of Human Rights

Wk 8 Exhibition proposal workshop; Spatial Design/Object Labels/ Panels; Blogging; PR/Audience.

Wk 9 Visit to Whitworth or Manchester Art Gallery

Wk 10 Sexual Violence in War: an impossible public history?

Wk 11 Group Presentations: Pitching your Exhibition to a Museum

Teaching and learning methods

Mini lectures; reading, group work,

Blackboard, e-learning

Excursions, presentations and workshops

Digital resources; training in exhibitions strategies and techniques

Group presentations will be carefully monitored by the group – and will include a document stating individual roles and contributions in regard to the completion of the final project.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Acquire knowledge of cultural history of war and human rights, and understand the relationship between academic historical research and public methods and practices
  • Understand and apply public and cultural history methods
  • Demonstrate ability to articulate the importance of objects and visual/aural sources in crafting historical narratives
  • Understand main debates in the cultural history of war and aesthetics of representation, and be able to acquire and apply and ethical and inclusive approach to difficult histories

Intellectual skills

  • Critically evaluate scholarship on war, conflict and human rights
  • Formulate and evaluate research questions for academic and wider audiences
  • Analyse primary and secondary sources
  • Understand the link between cultural history and theory and practices of public history in relation to war and conflict

Practical skills

  • Blog entry writing/exhibition review skills
  • Application of public history
  • Designing an exhibition brief or proposal; write panels and labels
  • Research museum collections
  • Translate complex debates into accessible public narratives

Employability skills

They will learn to translate complex debates to wider audiences. It will also ground students in skills for identifying and building relationships with non-academic partners and audiences (the general public, the heritage industry, policy and third sector; curators). They will also learn team building skills in a group project and how to pitch an exhibition proposal.
Students will learn curatorial skills, such as storytelling through art collections and material culture, as well as exhibition design, reviewing exhibitions and documentaries. They will encounter and learn to write for different forms of communication and to different audiences (newspaper, tv, radio, blogs, exhibitions and podcasts).

Assessment methods



Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

1500 word blog entry using pictures


1500 word exhibition/documentary review


1500 words


Group presentation (with slides) – pitching an exhibition proposal to a museum.


15 minutes


Group project – written exhibition proposal, including rationale, design, object list, story-board and labels (PP slides) - including statement on participant roles and contributions)


6 x A 4 (plus powerpoint slides)



Feedback methods



Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on all assessment tasks


Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)





Recommended reading

Leora Auslander and Tara Zahra (eds) Objects of War: material culture of conflict and displacement (Cornell, 2018)

Maura Reilly and Lucy Lippard, Curatorial Activism: towards and ethics of curating (2018)

Rebecca Bush and K. Tawny Paul (eds), Art and Public History: Approaches, Opportunities and Challenges, (2017)

Erica Lehrer, et al (eds) Curating Difficult knowledge: violent pasts in public places, (Palgrave 2011)

Richard Sandell, Museums, Moralities and Human Rights (Routledge, 2017); Representing Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum (Routledge, 2015)

David Olusoga and Caspar Erichson, The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial roots of Nazism, and the BBC series The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire

Santanu Das, India, Empire and the First World War: Writings, Images and Songs (Cambridge 2018)

Heide Fehrenbach and Davide Rodogno, Humanitarian Photography:  a history, (Cambridge, 2014).

Jane Lydon (ed), Photography, humanitarianism, empire (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016).

Liisa H. Malkki, The Need to Help: the domestic arts of international humanitarianism, (Duke UP, 2015).

John F. Barber, ‘Digital Storytelling: new opportunities for humanities scholarship and pedagogy’, Cogent arts and Humanities, Dec 2016.

Lynn Hunt, Writing History in the Global Era (2014); Inventing Human Rights (2007)

Stephen Jenson, the Making of International Human Rights: the 1960s, decolonization and the reconstruction of global values, (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ana Carden-Coyne Unit coordinator

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