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Archaeological Heritage and Museums

Archaeological Heritage and Museums



Prof Marie Louise Sørensen

Other staff teaching on this course:

Dr Gilly Carr, Dr Dacia Viejo Rose, Dr Lila Janik, Dr Chris Wingfield, Dr Jody Joy


The Course

This MPhil teaches Heritage Studies and Museums, covering the core issues and approaches within the field of heritage generally (including tangible and tangible, movable and immovable heritage) and museums specifically. It traces the development of heritage as a public enterprise whether in the form of museums or heritage organisations and legislation, and focuses on the ways this field has expanded and the core issues that now defines it.


The Themes

Some of the key themes include:

  • The historical development of museums and heritage institutions
  • The concept of value, its historical development, ways of assessment and contestation
  • The links between heritage and identity
  • The political dimensions to heritage and museums
  • Ethics
  • The management structures, and the divisions of tasks and responsibilities between different kinds of organisations
  • The development of `heritage tools' such as laws and organisation
  • The public—the actors, from international bodies to local communities
  • Heritage and conflict
  • Memory and memorialisation

The cross-cutting concerns are to develop insight into the historical development of the fields and to understand how these are continuously developing practices and concerns responding to social needs as well as established practices and power relations. This course option is appropriate both for students of archaeology who want to specialise in heritage and museums and to students coming from other disciplines wanting to enter these fields of studies.


The Structure

The general structure of this MPhil follows that of the structure of the MPhil in Archaeology but would normally expect the students to take the three specialised heritage and museums papers:

  • The Socio-politics of the past (G29), to be assessed through an unseen examination (67%) and an essay of not more than 3000 words length (33%).
  • Museums: History, Theory and Practice (G30), to be assessed through an unseen examination (67%) and an essay of not more than 3000 words length (33%).
  • Management of Archaeological Heritage (G31), to be assessed through two essays of not more than 4000 words length (50% each).

All three modules are lecture based, but also include seminars, various small-group discussions, and fieldtrips.

This combination of papers allows students to develop specialised in-depth knowledge of the connecting fields of heritage and museums, applying what they learn in seminars and museums practicals.

In addition, students take the Research Skills module (G01) and write a 15,000 words dissertation on a topic relating to heritage or museums. This offers the students the opportunity to conduct independent original research on a topic selected by them under guidance of the academic staff. The dissertation may be based on original fieldwork (surveys, observations, archival) or library based.


Recent MPhil Dissertations

Some recent MPhil dissertations and topics in Archaeological Heritage and Museums include:

  • The politics of display: Public cast galleries enter the twenty-first century.
  • Two Way Street: Historic street names and sense of place.
  • Whose heritage? Whose past? The cultural construction of identity in Taiwanese museums.
  • The creation of historic environments: The case study of the Acropolis.
  • Archaeology and Nationalism: The use of the past in the forging of Turkey.
  • In defence of oblivion: The poetics of forgetting in Cultural Heritage Management.
  • Propaganda, looting and relics from an idealized past: Collection of antiquities as a healing mechanism and the implications for the illicit antiquities trade in Cambodia.

The students will all be members of the Heritage Research Group, and be actively involved (if they wish) in planning its activities including the annual Cambridge Heritage Seminar.


For further information, contact Prof M.L.S. Sørensen, co-ordinator for this MPhil option and overall MPhil co-ordinator for the Department of Archaeology.