Weekly assignments

You have nine weekly assignments to complete, and each is worth four points. Your assignment can be marked good, exemplary, or revise and resubmit. A score of “good” earns you the full four points for the assignment. On occasion, an assignment will earn an “exemplary” score, which is worth five points. If you’re asked to revise and resubmit, you have until the last day of class to resubmit the assignment. Your grade will not be penalized, as long as you get the revised assignment in.

Note: Perhaps a weekly assignment doesn’t speak to what really interests you that week. If this is the case, I am open to your proposal of a different assignment for that week, as long as it’s roughly the same amount of work. Please just contact me.


Each week you’ll receive an assignment that builds on the readings and discussions for that week. The assignments are due the following week, by the start of class, and should be submitted via CCLE, in the folder for the relevant week. I may change the details or substance of these assignments as the class progresses, so please double-check before you start work on them.

Rather than a letter grade, your assignments will be returned to you with one of the following classifications: exemplary, good, or revise and resubmit. If you have been asked to revise and resubmit your assignment, you have until the end of the quarter to do so. Your grade will not be penalized, as long as you return the revised assignment at some point.

Assignment one: floor plan analysis

Due Friday, October 9, at 1:30 pm

We Information Studies people know better than anyone that the organization of information reveals a lot about power and ideology. So let’s apply that to museums. Pick a museum, any museum, and find a floor plan for it. What does the organization of its display spaces tell you about how it views its mission and subject matter? Write ca. 500 words describing your reasoning.

Assignment two: an anticolonial museum exhibit

Due Friday, October 16, at 1:30 pm

Pretend you’re a museum curator charged with the task of creating a small exhibit (let’s say five objects) about the entwined histories of museums and colonialism. What is the narrative arc you’d trace in your exhibit? Which objects would you include, and why? To choose objects, think back to our reading, discussion, or even personal experiences that you’ve had. What piqued your interest? (You can, if you’d like, use your exhibit to tell the story of a specific historical event that you think exemplifies the issue of colonialism in museums; just explain why you’ve chosen that event.) Write ca. 500 words describing and explaining your exhibit.

Watch an explanation of this assignment

Assignment three: an online collection

Due Friday, October 23

Omeka is a platform for building online exhibits that is designed to be fairly intuitive and easy to use. It’s not exactly a DAMS, and it’s not really a CMS either. But it has elements of both kinds of systems, and is a nice way to experiment with describing objects.

Create an account on omeka.net (choose the trial version; you should not be asked for CC information) and build item records for a small collection that you have at your disposal. (It could be books, artwork, silverware, etc. Aim for around five objects.) Note that Omeka uses the Dublin Core metadata schema for item description. You can describe the object itself or a representation of the object. Fill out the metadata as best you can (you don’t need to fill in every element) and take notes: What dilemmas did you encounter in trying to describe your collection? We’ll talk about these in class next week. On CCLE, please submit a link to your Omeka collection. (Just the URL is fine. Be sure to either make your collection public or include a username and password so I can access it.)


More on Dublin Core metadata standards

Learn how to sign up for an Omeka account and create an Omeka collection

Assignment four: The digital participatory museum

Due October 30, 2020

Please watch this video in which Nina Simon describes her notion of the “participatory museum.” Simon notes that participation can be very meaningful for patrons — but that these experiences need to be designed very carefully to elicit meaningful participation.

  1. What is your theory of what makes the difference between a meaningful and non-meaningful digital participatory experience? (Another way to ask that: Why are YouTube comments so bad when those same people are capable of thoughtful participation in other environments?)
  2. Imagine and describe a digital museum experience (online or in-person) that could elicit meaningful participation from patrons. You can submit your response in writing, or see CCLE, under Week 5, for a link to share a video of your response to this prompt.

Assignment five: Digital engagement versus curatorship?

Due November 6, 2020

Museums are increasingly getting into the business of “storytelling”: engaging with members of the public on their own terms, in their own (sometimes digital) vernacular. Sometimes that approach can conflict with the traditional role of the curator, which is to select important objects and be an expert on them. In 500 words (or in video; see CCLE for the FlipGrid link), write about how new digital engagement strategies will change the role of the museum curator. Is there a fundamental conflict here, or are there ways to combine both approaches?

Assignment six: the exhibitionary complex

Due November 13

Is it possible for a work of art in a museum or gallery to escape the exhibitionary complex? That is, is true subversion possible in the museum? Explain your thinking in 500 words (or on video), preferably with reference to one or more works of art.

Assignment seven: sovereignty and/vs. participation

Due November 20

This week, we’ve talked a lot about indigenous knowledge protocols, and how they often differ from Eurocentric attitudes about sharing information freely. We know that it’s key for a decolonized museum to ensure that indigenous people retain sovereignty over their own artifacts and knowledge. And yet, we’ve also talked about the importance of digital engagement and community participation. Can you imagine a digital exhibit that both recognizes indigenous sovereignty and engages non-tribal members in meaningful ways? Another way to ask that: Is there a good way for museums to create exhibits on indigenous history and culture that include participation from non-indigenous people? What would that participation look like? Tell me in around 500 words, or post a video on FlipGrid (see CCLE for the link).

Assignment eight: collections as data

Due December 4

We’ve experimented with some museum collection data, and we’ve seen some examples of museum data analysis. What place do you think this kind of work should have in museums? How could it be helpful? Do you think certain uses should be discouraged? How highly should museums prioritize the release of their collections as data?

Please compose your response in about 500 words, or post a video on FlipGrid (see CCLE for the link).

Assignment nine: AR, VR, regular R?

Due December 11

Identify a museum XR project that intrigues you: because you really like it, because you hate it, because it suggests some new possibilities, or for any other reason. Explain why you chose the project and speculate about what it represents for XR in museums going forward. Compose your response in 500 words, or post a video on FlipGrid (see CCLE for the link).