Researching Concepts

In conversation with academic experts, you will reflect, at a conceptual level, on different academic and professional discourses about the dynamics of culture and societal change. The use and meaning(s) of key concepts such as culture, identity, heritage, sustainability, inclusivity, participation, authenticity and digitality will be discussed by utilising concrete examples from different historical, social and spatial contexts. Students will be given the tools to research these concepts.

On the first day in class, the focus will be on ideas of culture and heritage and on ethnological research as a starting point for professional interventions. In the following week, the focus will shift towards notions of positionality and identity, and we will introduce emotion networking as an instrument to map conflicting emotions and interests in social interactions around heritage objects.

Subsequently, the question “What is the object at stake?” will come up. We will shift our focus to the so-called the biography of things and receive a first introduction to object analysis as an important research strategy for professional interventions in museum and heritage practice. Similarly, we will continue each week to discuss concepts that challenge us to look at the field from a specific perspective, while exploring research methods that help us to understand better how these concepts translate into practice. Thus, after discussing the notion of stakeholders in the morning (what do we mean when we talk about stakeholders?), we will work on interview skills in the afternoon (how do we approach stakeholders in professional practice and what ethical issues are at stake here?). In the same way, a discussion on visitor engagement will be followed by a workshop on audience research. A discussion on big data will be followed by a workshop on data ethics or data visualisation. Thus, we will combine theory, practice and ethics.

For this module, the assessment consists of:

  • A podcast, in which you demonstrate a deep historical awareness in light of a popular historical narrative; In a podcast of about 15 minutes (max) you’ll discuss a national or regional popular historical narrative from your country or region of choice, and you link this narrative to a global history approach. When was the narrative constructed or written down? In what way have you been familiar with this story, and does a more ‘global’ approach to history change the meaning of this narrative? The podcast combines personal reflections (on your own historical education, national historical culture or memory), and awareness of the academic discussions on history (and memory) making. 
  • An oral exam in which you demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key concepts, literature and issues discussed in term 1; 
  • A research paper of 4000 words in which you critically reflect on current professional practices and instruments, in relation to issues of sustainability, inclusivity and/or digitality. The topic needs to be pre-approved with a view to safeguarding feasibility, standards and timely submission. The paper should include new primary data collected by personal research. This can be archival research, interview(s), social media study, (exhibition-) observations etc.