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Unit of study_

MUSM7035: Ethics of Cultural Property

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

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
Presentation Case study presentation
10% Multiple weeks 10 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO3 LO2 LO1 LO6
Assignment Case study paper
Due two weeks after the presentation.
35% Multiple weeks 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO1 LO2 LO3 LO5
Participation Participation
10% Ongoing Ongoing in-class assessment
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO3 LO2 LO1 LO9 LO8 LO7 LO6
Assignment Essay
45% Week 13
Due date: 25 May 2023 at 23:59
3000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10

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 studies need to be aligned to the topic of the week. Identification and selection of case studies will be discussed in Week 1.
  • 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

Work of exceptional standard (7% of students). Written work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research and reading; pointed and critical analysis of material; innovative interpretation of evidence, makes an insightful contribution to historical debate; engages with values, assumptions and contested meanings contained within original evidence, develops abstract or theoretical arguments on the strength of detailed research and interpretation. Properly documented; writing characterised by creativity, style, and precision.


75 - 84

Work of a superior standard (among the top 25% of students). Written work demonstrates initiative in research and reading, complex understanding and original analysis of subject matter and its context, both empirical and theoretical; makes a good attempt to ''''get behind'''' the evidence and engage with its underlying
assumptions, takes a critical, interrogative stance in relation to historical argument and interpretation, shows critical understanding of the principles and values underlying the unit. Properly documented; writing characterised by style, clarity, and some creativity.


65 - 74

65-69% (Low Credit): Competent work, although further development is needed. (among the top 55-60% of students). Written work contains evidence of comprehensive reading, offers synthesis and critical evaluation of material on its own terms, takes a position in relation to various interpretations. In addition, it shows some extra spark of insight or analysis. Demonstrates good selection of evidence, coherent and sustainable argument, some evidence of independent thought,
grasp of relevant museology or studies in cultural heritage.

70-74% (High Credit): Highly competent work, demonstrating clear capacity to complete work of high standard successfully (among the top 40% of students). Evidence of extensive reading and initiative in research, sound grasp of subject matter and appreciation of key issues and context. Engages critically and creatively with the question, and attempts an analytical evaluation of material. Makes a good attempt to critique various historical interpretations, and offers a pointed and thoughtful contribution to an existing historical debate. Some evidence of ability to think theoretically as well as empirically, and to conceptualise and problematise issues in historical terms. Well written and documented.


50 - 64

50-54% (Low Pass): Work of an acceptable standard. Written work contains evidence of minimal reading and some understanding of subject matter, offers descriptive summary of material relevant to the question, but may have a tendency to paraphrase; makes a reasonable attempt to organise material logically and comprehensibly and to provide scholarly documentation. There may be gaps in any or all of these areas.

55-59% (Medium Pass): Work of a satisfactory standard. Written work meets basic requirements in terms of reading and research, and demonstrates a reasonable understanding of subject matter. Offers a synthesis of relevant material and shows a genuine effort to avoid paraphrasing, has a logical and comprehensible structure and acceptable documentation, and attempts to mount an argument though there may be weaknesses in particular areas.

60-64% (High Pass): Work has considerable merit. Written work contains evidence of a broad and reasonably accurate command of the subject matter and some sense of its broader significance, offers synthesis and some evaluation of material, demonstrates an effort to go beyond the essential reading, contains clear focus on the principal issues, understanding of relevant arguments and diverse interpretations, and a coherent argument grounded in relevant evidence, though there may be some weaknesses of clarity or structure. Articulate, properly documented.


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 Frameworks for museum ethics: Introduction Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Frameworks for museum ethics: legislation and policy Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Frameworks for Museum Ethics: Immunity from seizure and due diligence Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Historical practice and contemporary legacies: Plunder, pillage and museum collections Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 Historical practice and contemporary legacies: Nazi war loot and restitution Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Historical practice and contemporary legacies: Illicit trafficking and trade Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Decolonisation, Anti-colonisation and Indigenisation of Museums and Heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 Decolonisation, Anti-colonisation and Indigenisation of Museums and Heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Decolonisation, Anti-colonisation and Indigenisation of Museums and Heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 10 Ethics and the preservation of World Heritage Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 Ethics and the preservation of World Heritage 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.


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.