Computer Systems Engineering (3 Years) [BEng]

Curating Culture

Unit code: UCIL22301
Credit Rating: 10
Unit level: Level 2
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by The University of Manchester Library
Available as a free choice unit?: Y



Additional Requirements

Exclusions to Enrolments:





Drawing upon the rich collections held at The John Rylands Library, The Whitworth Art Gallery and The Manchester Museum, this unit examines how cultural institutions collect, care for and interpret their collections. Archives, objects, art, rare books and maps have been collected for many different reasons and this unit investigates why collections were formed and what this tells us about the society which created and/or collected them. Students will also consider how cultural institutions interpret and present ideas and the limitations and assumptions inherent in exhibitions and other public engagement activities.  The unit provides practical experience of interpreting cultural artefacts for public audiences.

The unit has three main aims:

1.  Developing students’ understanding of how and why institutions acquire and actively collect material; particularly how this seemingly neutral actively has been shaped by culturally engrained attitudes towards race, gender and class. 

2. Developing students’ critical thinking skills to evaluate and interrogate exhibitions and other public engagement activities based around cultural artefacts.

3. Developing students’ interpretive skills to communicate academic ideas to diverse audiences using cultural artefacts to illustrate and extend knowledge. Students will also consider different engagement and delivery methods which accommodate various learning styles and audience’s backgrounds  



This unit is aimed at developing your communication skills, to present complex ideas in academically rigorous and culturally sensitive ways.  The unit is based around the collections of the Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery and John Rylands Library, taught in these institutions, and by staff from these institutions along with University academics.  Through this unit you will discover some of the approaches that are used to animate collections of objects in exhibitions, events and schools educational sessions. You will produce a short review of an exhibition, write exhibition labels or blog posts, develop and deliver a guided tour of an exhibit, and maintain a reflective learning journal. This unit should provide you with valuable skills that will help you to communicate your ideas with confidence.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this unit students will be able to:

1. Understand the key concepts of why individuals, societies and organisations collect cultural artefacts, how  ‘value’ is attributed to them and what decisions inform the selection


2.Develop an awareness of ethical, cultural and conservation issues involved in collecting and exhibiting cultural and heritage material 

3.Critically evaluate exhibitions and other public engagement activities based around cultural and heritage material;

4.Present ideas involving cultural and heritage material in creative and innovative ways

5.Deliver engagement activities which are sensitive and accessible to a wide range of audiences.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Develop awareness of a variety of techniques and approaches used in the interpretation, translation and communication of ideas/subjects for a variety of audiences in exhibitions and related programmes
  • Understanding of the possibilities of using cultural heritage to promote personalised learning, sense of personal identity and personal well-being
  • Awareness and understanding of the tacit assumptions, biases, limitations and preconceptions in exhibitions, with regard to gender, race, sexuality, disability and age
  • Recognising the role of culture and heritage in embodying and representing ideas in relation to power, representation, choice and collecting
  • Awareness of elements of the cultural heritage in Manchester and the University and its various uses
  • Understanding of the social responsibility agenda of the University and of the research impact agenda

Intellectual skills

  • Recognise the notion of 'multiple intelligences' and different learning styles, both their own and other people's

Practical skills

  • Development of communication skills necessary for giving tours and for writing exhibition text/blog posts/lay summaries
  • Giving and receiving feedback on work, both from peers and from course leaders

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Appreciate the importance of accommodating alternative viewpoints to subjects and the nature and context of these, notably maintaining intellectual rigour in a respectful manner
  • Approaches to handling controversial and sensitive subjects is a key feature
  • Understanding of multiple perspectives on topics and the importance of context in dealing with these sensitively

Assessment methods

  • Portfolio - 50%
  • Project output (not diss/n) - 50%

Feedback methods

Course Convenor - Janette Martin

Study hours

  • Seminars - 20 hours
  • Independent study hours - 80 hours

Teaching staff

Stella Halkyard - Unit coordinator

David Morris - Unit coordinator

Donna Sherman - Unit coordinator

Henry Mcghie - Unit coordinator

Janette Martin - Unit coordinator

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