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Unit information: Curating the Object in 2018/19

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Unit name Curating the Object
Unit code HART20029
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Miss. Brace
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will introduce students to the practice and theory of the exhibition as a central strand of the discipline of art history and as a fundamental tool for communicating art historical research to the wider public. Art historians based in the university are frequently involved in exhibitions as both curators and as contributors to catalogues. This involvement requires close collaboration between museum professionals and academics. Students taking the unit will learn about the history and theory of exhibitions, as well as being introduced to the practical aspects of curating an exhibition and writing interpretative text aimed at the general public. The unit will draw on staff involvement in curatorial practice in collaboration with national institutions as well as local institutions with curatorial expertise. As part of the assessment for this unit, students will collaborate in groups to produce a virtual exhibition, which they will present as a group by actively guiding the assessor through their exhibition, just as a curator would do. Students will be expected to organise group work sessions independently, in addition to attending formal supervision sessions.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. broad knowledge and understanding of the role of exhibitions in communicating art historical research to the public
  2. a good understanding of curatorial practice
  3. the ability to evaluate the central concepts, stories and places of exhibitions
  4. skills in written and oral presentation, appropriate to Level I.
  5. collaborative learning skills and effective team-working
  6. how to create a coherent exhibition project from individual contributions

Teaching details

1 x 1hr lecture and 1 x 2hr workshop per week.

Assessment Details

1) One exhibition review of 750 words (this is an individual piece of work for 40% of the unit grade) assessing ILOs 1-4

2) A virtual exhibition designed and presented as a group project (this is a group piece of work that is awarded a collective mark with scope for inflection of that mark in relation to individual contribution), worth 60% of the unit grade. Both the content of the virtual exhibition and the presentation will be assessed for ILOs 1-6

Reading and References

Hans Ulrich Obrist, A brief history of curating, edited by Lionel Bovier (Zurich: JRP / Ringier ; Dijon: Les Presses du rel , 2011)

On Curating: interviews with ten international curators, interviews by Carolee Thea; ed. Carolee Thea and Thomas Micchelli. (New York: D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2009)

Ten Fundamental questions of Curating, ed. Jens Hofman (Milan, Mousse Publishing, Fiorucci Art Trust, 2013)

What Makes a Great Exhibition?, ed. Paula Marincola (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Exhibition Initiative, 2006)

Thinking about Exhibitions, ed. Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W Ferguson and Sandy Nairne (Abingdon, Routledge, 1996)

Mary Anne Staniszewski, The Power of Display: a history of exhibition installations at the Museum of Modern Art (Cambridge, Mass.; London: MIT, 1998)