You are on page 1of 9


AMST1510 Museum Collecting and Collections Fall 2015
Steven Lubar Teaching Assistant: Sarah Dylla
Tuesday and Thursday, 1:00-2:30, Nightingale-Brown House 2nd floor
Office hours: Monday 2:00-4:00 by appointment
This course explores museum collecting and collections, focusing on the ways that museums care for their collections, make them
available, and use them for research and education. We will work intensively on three collections at Brown, researching their history,
cataloging them, and creating exhibitions, publications, and proposals to publicize these collections.
Note: Admission to the course requires the permission of the instructor. To request admission, submit a one page essay explaining
your interest, which of the three projects you’re particularly interested in, and why.


What you’ll learn:
How museum curators, registrars, and conservators use and think about collections
The tools museums use to keep track of their collections
Best practices in collections development, management, preservation and exhibition
The place of collections in museum work
The ways museum artifacts are useful in teaching and research
Best practices for making collections available and searchable digitally
How to conceptualize, manage and create a collections-based exhibition
You’ll also learn a lot about stamps, early 20th-century art collecting, and scientific instruments at Brown.
1. Historic scientific instruments at Brown. We will track down and catalog scientific, medical, and engineering instruments across
campus (not those in the John Hay Library), explore other university and museum collections of similar instruments, and suggest
ways to preserve Brown’s collections and document the university’s legacy in science, medicine and technology. How can we make a
case that Brown should take good care of these collections? How might these artifacts be used in research and teaching? We will
produce a small exhibition of these instruments in the Rockefeller Library.
2. Paintings in the Annmary Brown Memorial. The Annmary Brown Memorial is Brown’s little-known and little-used art museum.
How might this collection be made more useful? We will explore the history of Rush Hawkin’s collecting, update the existing database
of paintings, catalog the other artifacts, and explore ways in which this underutilized collection might be used in teaching. This will

result in a proposal for conservation, exhibition, or educational uses of the collection and facility, and perhaps a reinterpretation of the
paintings now in the gallery.
3. Brown University Library's stamp collections. Stamp collections at Brown range from comprehensive national and global
catalogues to thematic collections and mail-related items of more focused historical or design interests (e.g. a collection of decorative
envelopes addressed to Abraham Lincoln and sheets of stamps featuring printing errors). Despite the size of the collections, they are
rarely used in research or teaching. We’ll explore ways to increase knowledge of and interest in the collections by proposing model
uses and experimental projects, suggesting directions for future collecting and management, and producing an exhibition of the
collections for the John Hay Library's main exhibition gallery with supporting digital components.


Individual Writing Assignments:
Short summary of the collections we visited. What impressed you? What surprised you? What did you not see? 300-500 words, Due
Write a critique of an online museum system. What works, what doesn’t? What is it designed to make easy? What can’t it do well?
What would you change? 300-500 words due 10/21
Compare personal and museum collecting. How are they similar, how different? How have museums, and how should museums,
work with collectors? Provide some examples. 300-500 words, due 11/18
Compare NAGPRA and the rules for the international trade in art and antiques. How do they differ, and why? How might they be
improved? 300-500 words, due 12/2
Books for purchase:
Steven Conn, Do Museums Still Need Objects?
James B. Gardner and Elizabeth E. Merritt, The AAM Guide to Collections Planning
John E. Simmons, Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies
Barry Lord, Manual of Museum Exhibitions
All available on reserve at the library, as are some supplementary readings. OCRA password: collecting
Each of the four short papers 5 percent of grade; class participation 10 percent of grade; each of two projects 35 percent of grade.


In Class

In Class —

Week 1

------no class--------

Introduction to the

Week 2
9/15, 9/17

Objects in museums what are they good

Tour of philately
collection at John
Hay Library and

Tuesday Reading

Thursday Reading


Steven Conn, Do Museums
Still Need Objects?
Introduction and Chapter 1

Paintings in oil & water colours
by early & modern painters
...Annmary Brown Memorial.

Sharon Macdonald, “Collecting
Practices” in A Companion to
Museum Studies

“The Annmary Brown
Memorial,” Providence
Magazine, 1916

Assignment 1: Short
summary of the collections
we visited. What impressed
you? What surprised you?
What did you not see? 300500 words, Due 9/23

Active collections manifesto

Rush Hawkins Announcement
of AMBM opening

Michael O’Hare, “Museums
can change; will they?”

“An Act to Incorporate the Ann
Mary Brown Memorial” 1903
“The Philatelic Collections of
Brown University”
Webster Knight will

Week 3
9/22, 9/24

stewardship and

Philately. Introduction
to the exhibition

Museum registration
and cataloging

Skype or visit from
Daniel Piazza,
curator, National
Postal Museum

John Simmons, Things Great
and Small: Collections
Management Policies, AAM
2006 pp. 1-50
AAM, “The Accreditation
Commission’s Expectations
Regarding Collections

Sheila Brennan, Stamping
American Memory
Read documents relating to
philately collection, especially
Piazza report
Steven M. Gelber, “Free
Market Metaphor: The

First thoughts on philately
exhibit: shared Google doc
with ideas for project

Marie C. Malaro, "Collection
Management Policies," in A
Legal Primer on Managing
Museum Collections.
Smithsonian Institution Press
(1985), 43-51.
Other readings of interest:
NPS Museum Handbook, Part
I, 6:1-6:11
Stephen L. Williams, “Critical
Concepts concerning nonliving collections,” Collections,
1:1, 2004.

Historical Dynamics of Stamp
Collecting,” Comparative
Studies in Society and History
34, no. 4 (October 1992): 742–
Browse Jack Child, Miniature
messages : the semiotics and
politics of Latin American
postage stamps (reserve)
Browse National Postal
Museum exhibition catalogs,
online sites

Rebecca A. Buck and Jean
Gilmore, Museum Registration
Methods 5th Edition
Code of ethics for registrars
Week 4
9/29, 10/1

Workshop: Philately

Workshop: Philately

Chapters 1, 2 and 3,, Polly
McKenna-Cress and Janet A.
Kamien, Creating Exhibitions

Read scripts from other library

Report to class on proposed
content for one case. Due

Sarah Dylla on JHL
Week 5
10/6, 10/8

Workshop: Philately

Workshop: Philately

Chapters 7, 8 and 9, Creating

Week 6

management and
access systems

Workshop: The TAG
--Carlene Niguidula
on TAG

Fiona Cameron and Sarah
Mengler, “Complexity,
Transdisciplinarity and
Museum Collections
Documentation: Emergent

Group document: Draft
outline of exhibition,
TAG manual

Begin data entry on TAG
system. Complete by 10/28

Sharon Leon, “Beyond Browse”
Assignment 2: Write a
critique of an online museum

Metaphors for a Complex
World,” Journal of Material
Culture June 2009 vol. 14 no.
2 189-218

Explore online databases
including UBC, PEM, and
others; explore Omeka

system. What works, what
doesn’t? What is it designed
to make easy? What can’t it
do well? What would you
change? 300-500 words due

Quigley, Suzanne, updated
and expanded by Perian Sully,
“Computer Documentation” in
The New Museum
Registration Methods.
Rebecca A. Buck and Jean A.
Gilmore (eds.). 5th ed.
Brooklyn Museum tech blog
Cooper Hewitt Labs blog

Week 7

Conservation and

Workshop: Project

Barbara Appelbaum,
Conservation Treatment and
the Custodian/Conservator

Visit with Ingrid
Neumann, RISD
Museum. Meet at
Benefit St. entrance
to RISD Museum

Meet with Library

Week 8

Exhibit workshop:
design and text

Exhibit workshop,
philately exhibit

Chapters 4, 5 and 6, Creating

Beverly Serrell, Exhibit labels
an interpretive approach, parts
1 and 3.

11/14 first draft of text
11/20 text final to library

Week 9
11/3, 11/5

Museum Collecting
and collecting

Introduction to
Brown’s scientific

Stephen E. Weil, “Twenty-one
ways to buy art.”

Harvard Collection of Scientific

Group 1: Organize plan to
inventory Brown’s scientific

Catherine Sease, “Codes of
Ethics for Conservators,”
International Journal of
Cultural Property (1998), 7:

Why do museums

instruments. Where
they are, tools to
catalog them.

Steven Lubar and Peter
Liebhold, “What’s worth
James Gardner and Elizabeth
Merritt, The AAM Guide to
Collections Planning, 2004
Simon Knell, “Altered values:
searching for a new
Collecting,” in Museums and
the Future of Collecting, ed.
Simon Knell
Concern at the Core:
Managing Smithsonian
Collections esp. Executive
Summary, chapter on
Acquisition and Disposal of
Collections, and appendix on
Acquisition and Disposal

Week 10

Collectors and
working with
Guest speaker:
Natasha Khandekar,

Yale historical scientific
instruments collection
Greenslade, Instruments for
Natural Philosophy
Thomas Söderqvist, “The
Participatory Museum and
Distributed Curatorial
Expertise”, NTM International
Journal of History and Ethics of
Natural Sciences, Technology
and Medicine, 18 (2010), 69–

Annmary Brown
Memorial collections

G. Thomas Tanselle, A
Rationale of Collecting

Documents on Annmary Brown

Guest speaker:
Skype or visit from
Becky Soules

Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking
my library”

“Something Eternal: The donor
memorial,” Chapter 4 in Carol
Dunan, Civilizing Memorials

AAMD, Art Museums, Private
Collectors, and the Public

instruments. Choose
departments, visit them,
decide on tools for inventory.
Due 11/18

Rosemary Matthews,
“Collectors and why they
collect: Isabella Stewart

Assignment 3: Compare
personal and museum
collecting. How are they
similar, how different? How
have museums, and how
should museums, work with
collectors? Provide some
examples. 300-500 words,
due 11/18

Other readings
Shep Krech, Passionate
Hobby: Rudolf Frederick
Haffenreffer and the King
Philip Museum

Gardner and her museum of
art,” Journal of the History of

Group 2: Strategic plan for
use of the Annmary Brown
Memorial. Draft due 11/18

Philipp Blom, To Have and To
Week 11

Material Culture:
using artifacts in
research and public

Review of Scientific
Instruments and
Annmary Brown

George E. Hein, “The
Constructivist Museum,” The
Educational Role of the
Museum, London and New
York: Routledge, 1994, 73-79.

Teaching with objects
Rice and Yenawine, "A
conversation on objectcentered learning in art
Project Zero and Harvard Art
Museums, “Study Center
Learning: An Investigation of
the Educational Power and
Potential of the Harvard Art
Museum’s Study Centers”
Steven Conn, Do Museums
Still Need Objects? Chapter 4
John Hennigar Shuh,
‘Teaching Yourself to Teach
with Objects” Journal of
Education, 7:4

Reminder: Script for Stamp
exhibit due 11/20
Group 2: Final proposal for
Annmary Brown Memorial
due 12/17


Week 12

Legal, ethical and
moral issues of
collecting and
collections: NAGPRA,
international laws,
responsibilities for
preservation, etc.

Thanksgiving Holiday

Steven Conn, Do Museums
Still Need Objects? Chapter 2
Read several articles in
Museum International Volume
61, Issue 1-2 (May 2009),
papers from the Athens
Conference on Return and
Restitution of Cultural Property

Natasha Khendekar
on the art market

Assignment 4: Compare
NAGPRA and the rules for
the international trade in art
and antiques. How do they
differ, and why? How might
they be improved? 300-500
words, due 12/2

Read several articles in
Museum Anthropology Volume
33. Issue 2. September 2010
on NAGPRA at 20.

Bob Preucel on
Native American

“Complying with NAGPRA,” in
The New Museum
Registration Methods
Museum News articles on
NAGPRA at 20
AAMD, “Report On Acquisition
of Archaeological Materials
And Ancient Art”
Report of the AAMD Task Force
on the Acquisition and
Stewardship of Sacred Objects

Week 13
12/1, 12/3

Workshop: Stamps

Workshop: TAG

Collections development
and management plan for

Brown Stamp Collection due
Week 14

Workshop: Scientific

Workshop: Annmary

Group 1: Exhibition and
database of Scientific
Instruments due 12/18,
including memo on
collections development.
Group 2: Final report on
Annmary Brown Memorial
due 12/18

The Dean of the College asks that this information be on all syllabi:
Students seeking accommodations due to a disability or medical condition, should contact Student and Employee Accessibility Services. Students in need
of short term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Dean of the College office. Students seeking psychological support services
should contact Counseling and Psychological Services.
Please be familiar with the Academic Conduct Code.