Museum Principles and Practices I

Code: AHVS486A
Apply this course towards: Cultural Resource Management

Course description

This course covers the foundations of museum practice and goes on to explore the various ways in which museums create and preserve knowledge through their curatorial and collections management functions.

This course addresses a range of functional tasks encountered in museums, with emphasis on a number of important themes in museology. As you work through these materials, you will note the recurrent attention to the following:

  • the need to respect diverse cultural values and perspectives
  • the need to involve the communities in shaping museum collections, programming and operations
  • the impact of information technologies on the work of the museum
  • the impact of increased demands for accountability from a range of stakeholders on all aspects of museum work

These themes run throughout both courses and provide a frame of reference for both your studies and your work as you translate theory into practice.

Learning objectives

  1. Appreciate the past, present and emerging contexts in which museum work takes place.
  2. Engage in current debates around the purpose of museums with knowledge of all aspects of museum operations.
  3. Build your understanding of the role of museums in service to society and to communities.
  4. Understand the functional areas of collections management, curatorship, information management and preventive conservation: their processes and their interrelationships.
  5. Forge crucial links between philosophical foundations and professional practice.
  6. Strengthen your professional network.


  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.


Mary Jo Hughes worked in museums for more than 30 years. From 2007 to 2022 she was the Director of University of Victoria Legacy Art Galleries where she developed a cross disciplinary program based on academic and community partnerships employing art to explore issues that matter.

From 2007 to 2012 she was Chief Curator at Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, specializing in curating Canadian historical art exhibitions such as the collaborative project William Kurelek: The Messenger which toured across Canada in 2011 and 2012. Previous to that, she was Senior Curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (1995-2007) where her many historical and contemporary projects were local, national and international in scope. She began her career in 1990 at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario where she first worked in collections management before moving into the curatorial field.

Concurrent to her curatorial career, Hughes has developed and taught courses at three universities. In Winnipeg she taught in the art history departments between 1998 and 2007 at the University of Manitoba and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Winnipeg. Currently she teaches Museum Studies courses through Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria.  

Hughes received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto (1988) and her Masters at Queen’s University (1990).

Currently she lives on Galiano Island, BC.

What participants are saying

"Thank you for providing this, it is unique and fills a need within the industry."

"Much of what we are learning is what we are dealing with at my museum. Engaging the community, forming new relationships, changing from being volunteer led to being staff led."

"I'm finding that the course content is extremely relevant. I'm learning a lot about my museum and how it operates and works with the local community, and finding great resources that my museum can utilize."

"It is nice to read the other students' perspectives on different subjects, or learn how things are done in their museums."

"Shows how museum issues have major similarities across the globe."



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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