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BA History / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Course unit details:
Collecting and Exhibiting the Empire in Britain, c.1750-1939
|Unit level||Level 3|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 1|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
This course examines the ways in which objects, animals and people from across the empire were collected and exhibited in Modern Britain (c. 1750-1939). During this period, private and public collections of art, artefacts, and living things grew exponentially as Britain’s empire expanded across the globe. Soldier, diplomats, missionaries and archaeologists looted, bought and received gifts in the empire, and their acquisitions were used and displayed in innovative ways in Britain. Objects were used to construct class and gender identities in homes, whilst the objects on show at public museums, zoos and world fairs promised to transport ordinary Britons to the far corners of the world. With varying motives, government officials, commercial entrepreneurs and scientists organised exhibitions, but there was no guarantee the public would get the exhibition’s intended message. In this course students will examine the collection and exhibition of the empire to investigate Britain’s imperial relationships, contemporary attitudes toward empire and foreign cultures and the emergence of modern exhibitionary culture.
This module is restricted to History programmes and History joint honours programmes (please check your programme structure for further details).
- encourage students, through the case study of collections and exhibitions, to develop nuanced understandings of British imperialism
- enable students to analyse how class, gender and race influenced people’s engagements with collections and exhibitions
- introduce students to different approaches to the study of collections and exhibitions: for example, collections as symbols of identity, museums as tools of social control, social life of objects, and exhibitions as expressions of contemporary attitudes
Knowledge and understanding
By the end of this course students will be able
- to explain why, how and what Britons collected and exhibited and how this reflects contemporary attitudes to empire
- to assess how the expansion of and challenges toward the British empire shaped British culture and society
- outline and explain the rise of exhibitionary culture in Britain
- to evaluate the relationship between empire, collecting and exhibitions
- to critically assess the purpose of collecting and exhibiting
- Identify and evaluate the major historiographical debates underpinning the topic.
- Research, planning and essay writing
- Analysis of primary and secondary sources to construct independent argumentation
- Master online databases and internet resources appropriate to the module.
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Present nuanced interpretations via advanced written and oral communication
- Accomplish independent research projects
- Work collaboratively as part of a team
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Students can expect to develop an important set of skills which will be highly valued in the workplace: 1) Object biography research and exhibition analysis skills valuable for work in museum and heritage sector 2) To convey complex ideas via written and verbal communication skills 3) The ability to collaborate in team-work settings. 4) Acting autonomously and taking leadership (through independent research, seminar preparation and contribution, assessment activities) 5) Critical thinking and analysis 6) Locating, organising and interpreting large quantities of evidence.
Source Analysis - 40%
Research essay - 60%
|Formative or Summative|
|Verbal feedback on group discussions/in-class tasks||Formative|
|Written feedback on coursework submissions via turnitin||Summative|
|Additional one-to-one feedback (during office hour or by making an appointment)||Formative|
Tim Barringer and Tom Flynn (eds.), Colonialism and the Object: Empire, Material Culture, and the Museum (London, 1997)
Sadiah Qureshi, People’s on Parade: Exhibitions, Empire and Anthropology in Nineteenth-century Britain (Manchester, 2011)
John McAleer and John M. MacKenzie (eds.), Exhibiting the Empire: Cultures of Display and British Empire (Manchester, 2015)
Louise Tythacott, The Lives of Chinese Objects: Buddhism, Imperialism and Display (Oxford, 2011).
Saloni Mathur, India by Design – Colonial History and Cultural Display, (London, 2007)
Sarah Longair and John McAleer (eds.) Curating empire: Museums and the British imperial experience (Manchester, 2016)
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Lewis Ryder||Unit coordinator|