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ARTHIST 4X03 Intro To Gallery&Museum

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Thursdays, 1:0- 2:00 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This seminar aims to familiarize students with critical readings on aspects of collecting, preserving, displaying, and interpreting artifacts and art works in both private and public contexts and related issues of funding, accountability, and public engagement. Topics include the development of the field as a discipline, cultural heritage, and engendered identities, spatial organization, media and communications, the practice and profession. Where possible, the seminar will discuss issues arising in the Canadian context, especially concerning the indigenous peoples. The seminar also aims to empower students to work collaboratively in small groups, undertake independent projects, and make presentations with confidence.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Macdonald, Sharon. 2006. A companion to museum studies (Blackwell Publishing).

Mills ONLINE: AM7.C59 2006 EB

O’Neill, Paul. 2012. The culture of curating and the curating of cultures (MIT Press).

Phillips, Ruth (ed.) 2011. Museum pieces, toward the indigenization of Canadian museums (McGill-Queen’s University Press).

Thornton, Sarah. 2008. Seven Days in the Art World (W.W. Norton and Co.)

Additional required readings will be further assigned when appropriate and indicated on Avenue to Learn.

Method of Assessment:

  1. Contribution to class discussion (including full attendance), 10%
  2. Written reports on readings, due according to the reading schedule, 40%

On January 4, 2018 students will sign up for topics for which they will lead discussions. Each student will lead on at least four topics and maybe more--details in class.

  1. Final presentation on March 29 and April 4, written report due April 13, 2018, 40%

On January 4, 2018 students will divide into small groups to work on a virtual exhibit design, with each student assuming one of the five key roles for this project. The grade of this project consists of the title, bibliography, hypothesis/central theme, methodology, and the final exhibit, at pre-determined dates—details in class.

  1. Peer group evaluations, due April 13, 2018, 10%

Students will work in small groups throughout the semester and self-evaluate on Group Performance Tasks, Group Maintenance Tasks, and Self-Centered Tasks, based on a detailed guideline from the McMaster Centre for Leadership Learning that will be given out in class.

Please note that students will have students received at least 10% of their grade in this course by March 16, 2018.

To get A+ requires correct spelling and grammar on all written work.

Grading Scale:


A+ 90-100      B+  77-79        C+  67-69        D+       57-59

A   85-89         B    73-76        C    63-66        D         53-56

A-  80-84        B-   70-72        C-   60-62        D-       50-52

                                                                        F           0-49


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Missed work and late penalties: The course is designed so that all students must read and work on schedule. Handing in anything late does not help the progress of the ongoing discussion and group project. If a student misses the class for which the student has signed up to lead the discussion, the student will not get any marks for that opportunity.

If for a valid reason (if sick, with medical note) a student must be absent for the class when the student has signed up to lead the discussion, it is the student’s responsibility to 1) email the instructor the written report on the reading before class and to another student for the latter to read in class, or 2) switch the reading material and date with another student and inform the instructor in advance by email.

No extensions for the final written report without a timely medical certificate.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Topics basically follow chapter headings of the four textbooks. We will work through the discourse on museums and cultural theories (Macdonald) in tandem with the historical evolution of exhibiting indigenous works in Canada (Phillips), and then switch to examining curating contemporary art in galleries (O’Neill and Thornton).

Week 1, January 4, 2018        Introduction, students sign up for groups and for readings.

James Adams, “The Canadian Museum of Human Rights: In the Labyrinth of Conscience,” The Globe and Mail, Saturday September 30, 2014. Globe Focus, F6-F7.

Adele Weder, “Faulty Tower: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights as tourist trap, failed memorial, and white elephant,” The Walrus (November 2014), 67-69.

“Temples of Delight: Special Report on Museums,” The Economist (December 21, 2013)

Week 2, January 11

Macdonald (ed.), A companion to museum studies

Chapter 1: Expanding Museum Studies: an Introduction

Part 1, Perspectives, Disciplines, Concepts: Introduction, Chapters 2-7.

Phillips, Museum pieces, toward the indigenization of Canadian museums

A Preface—by Way of an Introduction, pp. 3-22.

Week 3, January18     Project Title Due

Macdonald (ed.), A companion to museum studies

Part II, Histories, Heritage, Identities: Introduction, Chapters 8-13.

Phillips, Museum pieces

Part One, Confrontation and Contestation, pp. 24-89.

Week 4, January 25   

Macdonald (ed.), A companion to museum studies

Part III, Architecture, Space, and Media, Introduction, Chapters 14-18.

Phillips, Museum pieces

Part Two, Re-Disciplining the Museum: pp. 92-131.

Week 5, February 1

Macdonald (ed.), A companion to museum studies

Part IV, Visitors, Learning, Interacting, Introduction, Chapters 19-22.

Phillips, Museum pieces

Part Three, Indigenizing Exhibits, pp. 156-226.

Week 6, February 8

Macdonald (ed.), A companion to museum studies

Part V, Globalization, Profession, Practice: Introduction, Chapters 23-28.

Phillips, Museum pieces

Part Four, The Second Museum Age, pp. 228-316.

Week 7, February 15

Macdonald (ed.), A companion to museum studies

Part VI, Culture Wars, Transformations, Futures, Introduction, Chapters 29-33.

Reading Week February 19-25, 2018

Week 8, March 1        Project Outline and Flowchart Due

In-class discussion

Week 9, March 8

Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World

Week 10, March 15

Calvin Tomkins, “The Modern Man. How the Tate Gallery’s Nicholas Serota is Reinventing the Museum,” The New Yorker (July 2, 2012), 54-63.

D.T. Max, “The Art of Conversation, profile on Hans Ulrich Obrist,” The New Yorker (December 8, 2014), 64-73.

O’Neill, The culture of curating and the curating of cultures, Chapter 1

Week 11, March 22

O’Neill, The culture of curating and the curating of cultures, Chapters 2 and 3

Week 12, March 29 Presentations

Week 13, April 5 Presentations

Please note that there might be slight adjustments depending on the progress of the class.

Other Course Information:


Danziger, Danny. 2007. Museum behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Penguin).

Gillam, Robyn. 2001. Hall of mirrors, museums and the Canadian public (The Banff Centre Press). Mills: AM21.A2 G55 2001

Herstatt, Claudia. 2008. Women Gallerists in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Hatje Canz).

OECD. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. 2001. Managing University Museums. Mills ONLINE XX (1770416.1)

Sherman, Daniel J. and Irit Rogoff (eds.). 1994. Museum culture: histories, discourses, spectacles. (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis). Mills: N430.M78 1994


Muse, the Canadian Museums Association’s bimonthly magazine.[1]

Canada. Canadian Heritage, & N.L. Hushion and Associates. (2005). Towards a new museum policy: Report on the Round Table Discussions, June 28-29, 2005. (Ottawa, Ont.): N.L. Hushion and Associates. Mills ONLINE: AM21.A2 T692 2005 EB

Canadian Museums Association:

American Alliance of Museums:

The International Council of Museums:

For all citations in the written reports, please consult Chicago Manual of Style

Mills ONLINE Z253 .C53.

Please also consult

All written work is to be typed in font-size 12, double-spaced with a header that includes the student’s family name, number, and pagination.


The instructor and university reserve the right to modify elements of the course during the term. Reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. It is the responsibility of the student to check their McMaster email and course websites weekly during the term and to note any changes.

When necessary, additional information and references will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

[1] Mills Library AM21.A1M8, / v.1: no.1 (1983)-v.11: no.3 (1993). Subscription cancelled. Interlending can obtain articles from later issues at no cost to authorized McMaster users.