The Role of Museums in History (Teaching Assistant)



In the ancient world, a museum was a place where ideas were exchanged. Using that definition as a starting point, this course examines the intellectual life of museums beginning with concepts of collecting and cultural property in the medieval period. We look at how traders, pilgrims, and crusaders perceived objects they brought back to western Europe; how the organization of collections into taxonomic categories influenced science in the age of Enlightenment; how natural history, anthropology, and art museums contributed to the development of those subject fields; the gulf between the "learned societies" and the P. T. Barnums; how social changes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries led to the rise of large public museums; and how museums are redefining themselves today as educational, social, and cultural institutions.