Which competencies do we need?

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Which competencies do we need?

  1. 1. Museum Studies after reading the small print Olga Van Oost Vrije Universiteit Brussel IBBT-SMIT [email_address]
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Do we need a course of Museum Studies in Flanders? </li></ul><ul><li>If yes, what should it be like? </li></ul><ul><li>Who might be interested? What would someone gain taking the course? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it feasible and useful in Flanders? </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  3. 3. Am I the right person to ask? Pretty Biased! <ul><li>I ♥ Museums </li></ul><ul><li>- museum researcher (in a department of communication sciences & new media research center IBBT-SMIT) at the Free University Brussels </li></ul><ul><li>- PhD on the art museum concept + museum/heritage policies in Flanders & the Netherlands </li></ul><ul><li>- degree in Art History and Archaeology </li></ul><ul><li>- diversity of questions: difficult to answer them all </li></ul>
  4. 4. Do we need a course Museum Studies? 3 Observations <ul><li>A gap in current Flemish academic education </li></ul><ul><li>At universities ‘museology’ is often a course integrated in art history & archaeology courses (1 semester). </li></ul><ul><li>Focus: </li></ul><ul><li>Organizational & functional aspects on how to run a museum </li></ul><ul><li>Very basic; introduction to practical museology </li></ul><ul><li>Neglects the complexity of the museum field </li></ul><ul><li>Especially disturbing is the lack of context & theory </li></ul><ul><li>A course Museum Studies would certainly fill this gap. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Do we need Museum Studies? 3 Observations <ul><li>Museum practice & policies in Flanders & the Netherlands: ‘museum’ narrow definition </li></ul><ul><li>Keeper of patrimony (objects, stories, senses, feelings, tastes..) </li></ul><ul><li>People collect to construct a past and build a future </li></ul><ul><li>The ICOM definition stands: collect, preserve, research and to make public </li></ul><ul><li>This definition of museums focuses on functions & organizational aspects </li></ul><ul><li>This is not enough </li></ul><ul><li>Relevance should be sought at the level of meanings & societal roles. Museum Studies should focus on THEORY. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Do we need Museum Studies? 3 Observations <ul><li>‘ The museum’: not an innocent starting point </li></ul><ul><li>Can we still believe in ‘the museum’? In a context of globalization, democratization, the heritage movement and the increasing influence of technology on contemporary societies. </li></ul><ul><li>Reflecting on the desirability, the format, the focus and the job opportunities of a course M.S. should also mean reflecting on the museum as a concept & as a public institution </li></ul><ul><li>Is the museum a relevant institution? Will it be relevant in the future? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Keyword: CHANGE <ul><li>18th & 19th centuries: </li></ul><ul><li>- bourgeois institution </li></ul><ul><li>- white, male & educated audience </li></ul><ul><li>- institution of progress, innovating architecture </li></ul><ul><li>- representation of the wealth of a nation </li></ul><ul><li>- objects reminding of a past & promising them a glorious present & future </li></ul><ul><li>- museums were shrines of objects </li></ul><ul><li>- idea of treasury reinforced by art historical research focusing on provenance, authenticity, connoisseurship & iconographical descriptions </li></ul>
  8. 8. Keyword: CHANGE <ul><li>20th – 21st centuries: </li></ul><ul><li>- certainties from the old days have disappeared </li></ul><ul><li>- societies have opened up </li></ul><ul><li>- globalization of politics, economics and culture </li></ul><ul><li>- democratization of western societies </li></ul><ul><li>- the rise of new technologies </li></ul><ul><li>To be relevant in the future: museums should very consciously take these societal changes into account  a course of M.S. should focus on these changes </li></ul><ul><li>The focus in Museum Studies should be on ‘the museum as a question’ </li></ul>
  9. 9. My Ideal Museum Studies <ul><li>Fills a Gap </li></ul><ul><li>Critical Theory: focus on the museum as a ‘question’ </li></ul><ul><li>Provide tools to think & develop vision </li></ul><ul><li>Interdisciplinary </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on museum histories, museum pedagogies, museum technologies, museum structures and policies, and so on (also applied tools) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on research (to develop vision: knowledge should be at the base) </li></ul><ul><li>An autonomous field of study </li></ul><ul><li>Taught at an academic level </li></ul><ul><li>International excellency (added value) </li></ul><ul><li>1 year course (specialisation) </li></ul><ul><li>Admission: students holding a master degree </li></ul>
  10. 10. Is a course M.S. feasible at a practical level? What will a student gain? <ul><li>Flanders is a very small region with about 400 museums </li></ul><ul><li>Often embedded in governmental structures: line departments </li></ul><ul><li>Staff: functionaries (no job hoppers) </li></ul><ul><li>No real job market: ex. art historians & archaeologists face unemployment </li></ul><ul><li>Policy level: museums are integrated in a heritage policy. More likely to integrate museum studies in a course heritage studies (with a specific focus on museums) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Is a course M.S. useful? <ul><li>Only feasible when: </li></ul><ul><li> it has an international scope (ex. Leicester Museum Studies) </li></ul><ul><li> it wants to be a knowledge centre of excellence </li></ul><ul><li> policy makers recognize the importance of developing M.S. as a highly theoretical study area. In terms of research, knowledge production & exchange it fills a gap </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  12. 12. Discussion <ul><li>This is not only a debate on YES/NO Museum Studies. </li></ul><ul><li>It is also a discussion on the role of museums in societies </li></ul><ul><li>A debate on the way museums are valued and embedded in Flanders </li></ul><ul><li>It is a discussion on the relationship between policy and individual museums (strains between them) </li></ul><ul><li>M.S. should be about developing vision at policy and museum levels </li></ul>

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