Course Details

Course offered Spring 2017

HONORS 396 A: Natural History and Culture Museums in the 21st Century (NSc)

HONORS 396 A: Natural History and Culture Museums in the 21st Century (NSc)

SLN 14945 (View UW registration info »)

Melissa Frey (Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture)
Office: Burke Museum, Room 203E, Box 353010
Phone: 206-221-7170

Credits: 3
Limit: 20 students

Credit Type

NOTE: This course does NOT fulfill Interdisciplinary Honors requirements, as it is only a 3 credit course. It will only award non-Honors UW elective credit and a great experience.
Traditionally, natural history and culture museums have served both as a repository for specimens and objects, and as a place of public education and engagement. Today, visitors are still captivated by these museum collections, drawn in by dinosaurs, whales, masks and canoes. However due to resource constraints, most natural history and culture museums are able to share only a small fraction of their vast collections and their in-depth research. A key challenge is to connect visitors to museum collections, to share the relevance of museum research, and to make museums matter.

The aim of this seminar is to explore both the public faces (exhibit/education programs) and the behind-the-scene spaces (collections/research) of a natural history and culture museum. Students will examine first-hand the Burke Museum’s paleontology, biology, archaeology, and ethnology collections, and learn about contemporary museum research. We will assess how these collections and their stories can be shared in creative and novel ways, and together, what they can teach us about ourselves and our communities.

The course will be hosted on-campus at the Burke Museum, where students will engage with a variety of museum experts and explore multiple collections. Assignments will include weekly course readings and discussions, two short papers, and a final group project. Seminar is offered as CR/NC (minimum performance level required for CR is 1.5 out of 4.0); grading will be based on participation (40%), written assignments (20%), and final presentation (40%).