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Unit of study_

MUSM7035: Ethics of Cultural Property

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit tracks the ethical and political disputes surrounding the ownership, control and care of cultural property. It begins by establishing historical attitudes towards cultural property which are then compared to current attempts to protect cultural heritage and regulate its movement. In doing so it considers how, more recently, museums have entered into dialogues with source communities about restitution and repatriation, new methods of display and ongoing relationships. The unit analyses numerous Australian and international case studies in order to define current models of best practice.

Unit details and rules

Unit code MUSM7035
Academic unit Art History
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Anna Lawrenson,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Participation Participation
10% - Ongoing in-class assessment
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO3 LO2 LO1 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6
Assignment Case study paper
Due two weeks after the presentation.
35% - 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Presentation Case study presentation
10% Multiple weeks 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO3 LO2 LO1 LO6
Assignment Essay
45% Week 13
Due date: 11 Nov 2021 at 23:59
3000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10 LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5

Assessment summary

  • Case study presentation: students will be required to choose a case study topic (related to one of the class sessions) for which they will devise a seminar question aimed at generating discussion around that session’s topic. Students should provide the background to their particular case study, detail the provenance of the object/s in question, outline the major stakeholders involved and address why the case is significant from an ethical point of view in terms of issues around the object/s provenance, management, ownership, exhibition etc.
  • Case study paper: prepare an independent report / briefing document detailing your specific case study an account of the competing interests involved and their arguments in relation to the case. The aim of this report is to provide a balanced and in depth account that cites all of the stakeholders involved and their different perspectives on the situation.
  • Essay: the essay provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of, and response to, the range of issues and arguments covered in the seminars, museum visits and presentations. The essay must be presented according to the conventions of formal essays, including acceptable spelling and grammar. It is important to reference any source material referred to in your essay.
  • Participation: students should come prepared to class and demonstrate that they have completed the reading by engaging in meaningful and supportive discussion with their peers.

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.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory 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: ethics and cultural property Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Frameworks for museum ethics: legislation and policy Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Immunity from seizure and due diligence Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Plunder, pillage and museum collections Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 Nazi war loot and restitution Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Illicit trafficking and trade Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Ancestral remains, sacred objects and museums Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 Guest Speaker - TBC Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Displaying human remains in the 21st Century Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 10 Ethics and the preservation of World Heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Guest Speaker - TBC Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 12 Censorship, controversy and cultural property Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Summary and evaluation Seminar (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.

  • Lecture recording: Lectures will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.

  • 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 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. Understand the concepts and practices of the ethics and politics surrounding cultural property
  • LO2. Understand the politics of domestic and international museum practice regarding cultural property
  • LO3. Understand the current issues affecting museums, such as ownership, repatriation of material culture and human remains
  • LO4. Have developed a body of knowledge about the history of the museum and contemporary debates in museology
  • LO5. Examine the relationship between museums and indigenous groups.
  • LO6. Identify, access, organise and communicate knowledge in both written and oral English
  • LO7. Appreciate the requirements and characteristics of scholarship and research
  • LO8. Adopt a problem solving approach
  • LO9. Be capable of rigorous and independent thinking
  • LO10. Use information technology for professional and personal development

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.

The format of the seminars has been adjusted to better integrate student presentations in response to feedback.


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