Collections Management Courses

Courses open for registration

Core Courses

Caring for Museum Collections

This course provides an introduction to preventive conservation. During the 14 weeks of this course, we focus on identifying and quantifying the environmental factors or agents of deterioration that affect collections, and on developing strategies that mitigate those factors. We build our understanding of the materials that make up a museum collection, both in how they degrade and in how they react to their environment and the objects around them. As well, we explore strategies for evaluating conservation requirements for the safe exhibition and storage of museum collections. Finally, we explore the role of an integrated planning and a risk management approach to collections care.

Collections Management

Central to the museum’s existence—from nature preserve to anthropology museum, contemporary art gallery to historical site—is the collection and use of objects and specimens: the material evidence of humans and their environment. This course addresses the roles of those collections within the framework of institutional mission and community objectives, and goes on to explore a range of management topics including:

  • ethics
  • policy
  • technology
  • accessioning
  • cataloguing
  • registration
  • documentation

…along with factors influencing collection development and management.

This course is intended to provide you with a thoughtful and balanced understanding of principles and practices that strengthen your ability to engage and lead the processes of collections development, registration, documentation, access, care, use, and planning. Together we will focus on the roles of collections within the institution and the community and the impact that our changing society and profession is having on managing collections for the future.

Curatorship: Contemporary Perspectives

Curatorship: Contemporary Perspectives reflects our growing understanding of the important relationships that exist between museums and their constituents. Museums and other public exhibition sites of all disciplines, sizes and settings are not only mirrors of society but also play influential roles. As societies change, these sites become zones of contestation in which notions of popular and high culture, old and new technologies, science and art, race and gender, individuals and communities interact. They can develop into arenas for important public debates about the definition and creation of a good society.

Museums are no longer expected simply to be civilizing sites of knowledge where the information flows in one direction; they are now places of dialogue where the visiting public and community partners are invited to bring their own perspectives and expertise into the learning and sharing process. Within the museum arena, these perspectives, beliefs and ways of doing things can either collide or fracture apart or they can become new hybrids: fresh sources of greater understanding and collaborative ventures.


Elective Courses

Building Community Relationships

This course provides a safe place to undertake conversations, create new knowledge and develop workable strategies to contribute to that good society. The course is designed to provide you with new tools and perspectives for inquiry, and practical understanding so that you can work effectively within a rapidly changing world. It also gives you the opportunity to:

  • share your insights with fellow learners
  • build upon your own experience, skills and knowledge
  • critically and creatively meet the challenges facing your organization and profession

Strong, sustained and mutually beneficial relationships with communities are critical to cultural and heritage organizations that seek relevant, positive and socially responsible roles in society. However, while the benefits of meaningful community partnerships are generally recognized across the cultural heritage sector, the knowledge and skills associated with effective community cultural and social development activities are not widely understood or applied.

Communicating Through Exhibitions

The course is all about developing our practice in creating exhibitions that connect and communicate to their audiences effectively. As a foundation, we will analyze what makes certain exhibitions successful and how to look at exhibitions with a critical eye.

While we will explore the entire planning process—from concept to fully realized design—the main focus of the course will be on the story. Mastering the art of interpretive planning is vital to the creation of exhibitions that work. We will look at the principles of powerful interpretation, the construction of a story and the ways in which content is written to best effect.

The course relies heavily on real life examples and practical exercises. You will also gain experience in planning an exhibition through collaboration as a member of a team.

Curatorial Planning and Practice

In early 19th-century English museums, a curator was the person charged with “keeping” a collection: that is, cataloging, organizing, caring for and displaying the myriad and oft-times chaotic array of objects. In the 20th century, as museums evolved from dusty buildings with monotonous displays into dynamic community- and market-oriented institutions, the curator’s role changed dramatically. Curators were typically scholars responsible for researching and acquiring objects and then working with a designer to develop scholarly and educational displays. Today, in the 21st century, the roles and responsibilities of curators far exceed the traditional “keeper” and “scholar” roles. Whether employed by an organization or working independently, today’s curators act as “cultural producers:” curators research, acquire, and care for both tangible and intangible objects and also work with diverse communities to create meaningful exhibitions and interpret meaning to the public.

This course is designed to familiarize students with both the theory and practice of curating in art, history, anthropology, science and interdisciplinary museums. The first five weeks will focus on theory, history and ethics. Through reading, analysis and online discussion, students will explore and debate the evolving definitions of what is involved in curating. The remainder of the course will focus on practice. In addition to continued reading and online discussion, students will select one public site in their community and engage in a series of exercises that encourage them to explore best practices in curating. Each student will critique two exhibitions at their case study site, propose the accessioning of an object into that site’s permanent collection, communicate intellectual content for that object public through a blog post or tweet, and create a concept and plan for a new exhibition that incorporates that objects for their chosen case study site.

Exhibit Fabrication

Topics covered will include:

  • the basics of case design, layout and installation, including a summary of conservation-approved methods and materials,
  • basic lighting of collections
  • simple mount making and support of objects on display
  • how to produce affordable yet professional labels, signage and other graphic elements
  • how to lay out and hang framed artwork,
  • ideas for special effects such as scents, sound and light effects, projections, etc.
  • basic faux finishing, sculpting, and molding and casting for creating props, replicas and other creative/decorative elements

Join us to find simple and achievable solutions to your exhibition challenges.

View information on accommodations in Victoria.

Exhibition Planning and Design

Exhibitions are the public face of your museum or gallery. They should inspire powerful visitor experiences. This immersive course examines the entire exhibition development sequence. It explores the principles that lie behind creating successful exhibitions that engage visitors' minds and emotions. It will address the following topics:

  • the foundation of planning
  • the planning process
  • storytelling and interpretive planning
  • exhibition design
  • design of graphics and signage
  • interactive exhibit design
  • fabrication and installation

Fieldwork, teamwork and presentation of an exhibition design concept provide you with opportunities to build exhibition planning and design skills. The course is designed for anyone who is, or might be, involved in planning an exhibition in a museum, gallery, science centre, and heritage site or tourist destination. 

For information on accommodations in Victoria click here.

Financial Management in Cultural Organizations

Gain financial management skills specific to the cultural sector that will contribute to the success of your organization.

While museums and other heritage and arts organizations exist to contribute to the cultural, artistic and creative quality of community life, they rely on thoughtful business planning and effective financial management to achieve their goals. This course is suitable for anyone involved in planning and management within a cultural organization. Through this course, participants will build their understanding of the complex economic and legal contexts in which organizations operate. They’ll also strengthen their knowledge, skills, and confidence in business and financial planning, management and performance assessment. Participants are encouraged to consider their own organizations (or ones that they are familiar with) as a case study to explore:

  • the nature and values of not-for-profit cultural organizations
  • business planning as a framework for setting goals, priorities, and strategies
  • financial management cycles, budgeting, and resource allocation - forecasting revenues and expenditures
  • internal controls, evaluation, and audit legal and ethical issues
  • using financial information for effective grant writing

The course is designed to provide you with a set of planning and analysis documents that you will be able to integrate into your organization. We will address the challenges faced in developing mission-led, financially sustainable cultural organizations and explore the opportunities for advancing new business practices and funding sources.

For information on accommodations in Victoria click here.

Human Resource Management in Cultural Organizations

This course will increase your capacity to interact with, lead and develop museum, heritage and other cultural workers. It will also allow you to strengthen your relationship with Boards and other governance institutions.

During the 14 weeks of this course, you will undertake an intensive examination of the ways in which staff and volunteers are managed in cultural organizations, with particular emphasis on museum and heritage institutions.

The material in the course is anchored in the conviction that strategic human resource management is vital in the creation of positive and supportive working environments in which the dedicated, creative professionals who animate the cultural sector can thrive. Throughout the course, you are encouraged to use resources and issues in your workplace as the context for reviewing the application of the literature and as the basis for activities and assignments.

Managing Archival Collections

Many museums hold archival materials—including documents, maps, photographs and other documentary evidence—that require specialized care and management. This course focuses on archives as an important component of museum collections and develops your understanding of ways in which archival materials should be organized, managed, preserved and shared.

This course strengthens your understanding of:

  • the nature of archival materials
  • theories, principles, and practices governing archival management
  • legal, administrative, and professional frameworks
  • appraisal, acquisition, and accessioning of archives
  • archival arrangement and description, including the application of archival descriptive standards
  • physical processing and storage
  • the importance of preventive conservation
  • reference services and access issues
  • using archives to enhance exhibits, educational offerings, and outreach initiatives
  • the impact of digital technologies on the management of records and archives
  • the role of archives in culture, heritage and society

While there is common ground between the management of artifacts and the management of archives, recognizing the distinctions is important to caring effectively for documentary materials and increasing their role in the museum environment.

Managing Cultural Organizations

This course provides participants with an opportunity for intensive study of the application of management theory and practice in cultural organizations, with particular emphasis on: characteristics of non-profit cultural organizations; governance and leadership; establishing mission goals and objectives; roles of executive and artistic directors; policy development and implementation; personnel management and team building; financial management; strategic and operational planning; information management; public relations; marketing; volunteer development; and ethical and legal issues.

The course will explore of the role of cultural organizations in society and the complex legal, ethical, and social values that shape our organizations and the people that lead them. Various issues, including leaders and leadership, social relevance and impact, and management systems and tools will also be examined. You will be challenged to critically analyze the trends and tools at your disposal and the role of your management style and values in guiding planning, goal setting, decision-making and evaluation.

Museum Information Management

Today's museums and cultural institutions are strengthened by their creative use of the wealth of digital information/media they collect, manage, preserve and share. Explore the dimensions, value and potential uses of this diverse range of digital resources and learn how to strategically harness these resources to improve the effectiveness of your cultural institution and its internal and online information assets.

This course provides you with the opportunity to examine your institution’s information opportunities and develop a project plan to act on one or more of them. Whether you work with education, collections, research, programming, marketing and audience development, or management within a museum or heritage setting, this course will be an asset to your career.

Museums as Learning Environments

In this course, you will examine the role of museums, galleries, interpretive centres and other related organizations as effective informal learning environments. Topics include:

  • an exploration of the history and frameworks for museum learning and practice
  • learning theories and understanding visitors
  • audience engagement and development
  • organizations and facilities that support learning strategies for design
  • marketing, research and evaluation of learning initiatives
Planning in Cultural Organizations

The central roles of planning in project development and/or organizational management and change are explored, along with a range of planning principles and methodologies suited to the museum, heritage and cultural sectors.

Public Programming

In this course, you will examine the critical role of interpretation and public programming in helping museums and heritage organizations engage their communities in meaningful and long-term ways. You’ll explore how organizations can create memorable learning experiences for visitors by understanding their needs, motivations, learning preferences, and contextual influences.

This course also examines:

  • the role of interpretation in public programs
  • the process of developing thematic interpretive content
  • the strengths and weaknesses of various interpretive and program approaches

You will learn about some powerful interpretive strategies that use the senses, material culture, multiple perspectives, stories and memory. You will look at planning, delivery, staffing, management and evaluation issues for a range of public programming approaches that occur on-site at museums and heritage organizations.

This course will also explore community outreach approaches—including the new realm of web-based public programs—and consider how museums and heritage organizations can embrace learning as a valued outcome for internal and external stakeholders and develop effective, long-term community partnerships.

Social Engagement

Museums and other cultural heritage organizations have the capacity to serve as dynamic social spaces for community engagement and action. This graduate course explores the profound social changes that are reshaping the nature and purposes of museums in a pluralistic society and considers the implications for all aspects of their specialized functions. During the first half of the course participants utilize a group of core resources to assist their learning about how the museum and cultural field has evolved, why social and community engagement is a critical foundation for all other professional practices, and how other organizations have begun their journeys towards engagement. The second half of the course introduces participants to a series of skills and practices to initiate, facilitate, and support community engagement and embed them in organizational life. Participants complete either a research paper on a topic relevant to the course, including a proposal, literature / resources review and essay, or a community engagement plan, with components on strategy, participants, proposed engagement process / steps, and follow up activities to embed community engagement into ongoing practice.

Visitor Experiences

This course explores the evolving concept and implications of an holistic approach to visitor engagement in museums and other cultural heritage institutions. Topics include:

  • museums’ relationships with their publics
  • museums’ capacity to serve as social spaces
  • strategies for audience research
  • the characteristics of visitors
  • communications
  • exhibitions
  • formal and informal learning activities
  • evaluation strategies
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