Skip to main content
Unit of study_

MHST6901: Museum and Heritage: History and Theory

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The historical, cultural and social roles of museums, heritage places and collections are the focus of contemporary debate. This unit examines the relationships between the production of cultural material, its management and display, and audience to understand museum and heritage sites as places of knowledge, politics and power. Current critical and theoretical perspectives incorporate ideas about the production, consumption, contestation and conservation of intangible values, identities, memories, cultural practices and different knowledge systems.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MHST6901
Academic unit Art History
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Chiara O'Reilly,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation Presentation
10% Ongoing 10 mins or 500 wd equivalent
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO2
Participation Participation
10% Ongoing n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment Essay 1 (short essay)
35% Week 06
Due date: 28 Mar 2023 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment Essay 2 (long essay)
45% Week 13
Due date: 23 May 2023 at 23:59
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2

Assessment summary

  • Presentation & discussion post: Each student will be assigned one museum or heritage site to research. The aim of this task is to share information about each of those sites / museums and position them in relation to the weekly seminar and lecture topic.
  • Essay 1: Answer the following question: how do museums and heritage sites reflect and/or continue to draw on their own institutional history? You will need to focus on two specific examples in your discussion to answer the question. You should discuss different examples from those considered in your presentation.
  • Essay 2: Answer one of the given questions. This essay provides you with an opportunity to extend on, and demonstrate, your understanding of key concepts discussed throughout the course. You should ensure that you focus on course content in your choice of examples.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.


Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.


For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction Lecture (1 hr)  
Introduction Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Collecting and collections: a historical perspective Lecture (1 hr)  
Collecting and collections: a historical perspective Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Modern museums: knowledge, power & consumption Lecture (1 hr)  
Modern museums: knowledge, power & consumption Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Site visit TBC Lecture (1 hr)  
Site visit TBC Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 The why and when of heritage Lecture (1 hr)  
The why and when of heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Museums & nationalism Lecture (1 hr)  
Museums & nationalism Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 World heritage and the rise of global agencies Lecture (1 hr)  
World heritage and the rise of global agencies Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 The museum as forum Lecture (1 hr)  
The museum as forum Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Heritage, destruction and the culture wars Seminar (2 hr)  
Heritage, destruction and the culture wars Lecture (1 hr)  
Week 10 Decolonising museums and heritage Lecture (1 hr)  
Decolonising museums and heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Globalisation: authenticity and experience Lecture (1 hr)  
Globalisation: authenticity and experience Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 12 Museums, Heritage and the Anthropocene Lecture (1 hr)  
Museums, Heritage and the Anthropocene Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Summary and discussion Lecture (1 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Lecture recording: All lectures will be recorded and made available to students on the LMS. 

  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through “Reading List” tab available on Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. have a body of knowledge about the history of the museum and about the development of heritage as a field of knowledge and practice
  • LO2. engage in and understand contemporary debates in museum and heritage studies
  • LO3. demonstrate a critical understanding of the role of museums and heritage in society.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.