Curatorial Planning and Practice

Code: AHVS488X
Apply this course towards: Collections Management, Cultural Resource Management, Visitor and Community Engagement

Course description

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 they 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 of the course 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 to the 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.

Learning objectives

On successful completion of the course you will be able to:

  1. Identify and summarize trends and issues facing curatorial practice in a variety of museum disciplines (art, history, anthropology and so on) in the 21st century.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the curator’s role in acquiring collections objects in an institutional setting.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the curator’s role in communicating information about collections objects and exhibition themes to the public.
  4. Analyze different disciplinary (art, history, anthropology and so on) methods of curating exhibitions.
  5. Articulate and discuss professional and personal ethics in regard to professional curatorial practice.
  6. Develop an original exhibition concept that employs the ideas, techniques and tools gained through becoming skilled at goals 1 – 5.


  1. All participants are encouraged to have a professional or voluntary role in a museum or cultural organization, which may serve as their 'partner organization' for completion of course assignments. If you have any questions about your suitability for this course, please ask us how to contact the course instructor directly before the course start date.
  2. Regular access to a computer with a reliable internet connection.
  3. University-level research, writing and critical thinking skills.


Richard Gerrard

What participants are saying

"Useful assignments (such as the object memo and exhibit concept)."

"(Instructor Richard Gerrard) was fantastic!"

"(Instructor Richard Gerrard's) point of view was really helpful. He was very active in the forums, which was super helpful and made the discussions lively. He also gave each of us specific
links relating to the points we discussed, which showed how much he cared as both a professor and a curator. He graded our assignments really quickly, which was also great."


Online format using the learning management system (LMS), Brightspace, over a 14-week period, requiring approximately 12-14 rigorous hours of coursework per week.

Students login to the course and communicate with the instructor and fellow students via the Brightspace course site. This course follows an asynchronous delivery model.

This course will use online text-based notes and/or PowerPoint presentations, forum-based discussions, individual and individual assignments, and print and online readings/resources. In addition to completing assignments and activities, participants are expected to contribute meaningfully and frequently to forum-based discussions weekly. The mode of contact with the course instructor is via email or online forums.

Attendance, participation and decorum

Whether registered as a credit or non-credit participant, you will be expected to:

  • login to the course website on a regular basis throughout each week
  • participate in class activities, and thoughtfully and articulately contribute to course forum discussions by reflecting upon assigned readings and professional experiences
  • submit course assignments on scheduled course deadline dates
  • notify course instructors of any personal leaves throughout the term that will affect class participation well in advance
  • notify the instructor of any situation that will compromise the timely submission of an assignment or activity to work out alternate arrangements well in advance of due date
  • provide work throughout the course that is effectively organized and researched, professionally presented, and well-written
  • interact with colleagues, program staff, and course instructors in a respectful and positive manner at all times

Note: if a student has not signed into the course site by the 100% tuition refund drop date, the Program Office reserves the right to withdraw the student from the course. Participation in online courses is mandatory and online interactions are the most important part of the course learning experience. As such, “catching up” at such a late date without prior approval—and make-up scheduling by the instructor and/or program—is impossible.

Privacy Considerations

In some cases, participants and the course instructor may discuss examples that reflect an actual situation, institution, or community. In order to create an environment where all feel free to discuss and learn from situational issues, it is asked that everyone respect the confidential nature of the institutions and communities being discussed.

While the site is password protected, note that email and course discussion forum groups are never entirely confidential and are subject to freedom of information and privacy legislation. Your use of these communication tools should reflect the public nature of the media.

We ask that you respect the copyright of any and all course materials and note that these are circulated and shared for the purposes of this course only. Further reproduction is strictly prohibited.

Personal information at the University is protected by the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the University’s Protection of Privacy Policy.

Disclosure of personal information to vendors, systems or services storing or accessing that information outside of Canada is restricted by s.30.1 of FIPPA.

Instructors may use a variety of educational technology in a course including internet-based technologies, or web-based applications, cloud services and social media. The use of technology is intended to enhance and/or deliver students’ education and is part of a students’ engagement at the University. Some of these technologies may collect, use, disclose, and store student and instructor personal information outside of Canada.

In some courses, instructors may require students to use educational technology and social media which stores personal information outside of Canada, in such cases, instructors will try to provide options (such as using an alias to register).

If students do not want their personal information stored or accessed outside of Canada, in certain rare instances, courses may not be available to them. If the course is required for the completion of a degree, alternatives will be provided.

Course Credit

1.5 units at UVic or may be taken on a non-credit basis.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have not already been admitted to UVic, you cannot take this course(s) for credit. Program Application Deadlines are as follows:

September entry:  July 1
January entry:  November 1
May entry: March 1

However, if you had applied to the program before the application deadline, you will be permitted to register in the course(s).

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