Making culture : new ways of reading things

Student looking at an item from the collection

Through object-based learning, understood in its broadest sense, this module will enable students to critically engage with the material world. This course will encourage questions about things – what do objects or artefacts mean to people and why? How does their value change over time and place? Which is more important, the object or the research it produces? We will focus on issues around the collection, interpretation and display of material culture; current debates about ‘ownership’, ethics and public engagement; and the impact of new digital technologies. 

This module will explore material culture from a variety of perspectives. It will draw on the University’s extensive range of museums, collections and archives and the expertise of arts and science academics and heritage professionals. By the end of the module, students should be able to apply knowledge of the main methods of enquiry from a range of subject areas in order to engage with objects from the University’s museums and collections. Students will also be exposed to a range of critical approaches to the documentation, interpretation, presentation and preservation of material in (and outside of) museums and archives.

The University of Birmingham is home to a diverse cultural offer including –The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Bramall Music Building, Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, the Lapworth Museum of Geology, the Research and Cultural Collections – ranging from archaeology to historic science instruments- and Winterbourne House and Garden.  


Reflective Learning Journal (67%) demonstrating the student’s critical reflection on their learning from the module, including that from each of the tasks and from their engagement with the different collections (2000 words)

Application of main methods of enquiry - Report (33%) showing how the student has engaged with specific tasks in each session linked to specific artefacts and collections (1000 word equivalent)

This is a free-standing module hosted by the Department of Education and Social Justice, School of Education, College of Social Sciences. It is available to all programmes that allow their students access to it.



Credits: 20 

Semester: 2

Timetable: Monday 3-4, Thursday 10-12

Hosted within the museums, galleries and collections centres around campus along with other locations

Please note this module is capped at 15 places only

To enrol for this course, please contact:

For more information on the University’s cultural venues and collections:


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