University museum

A university museum is a repository of collections run by a university, typically founded to aid teaching and research within the institution of higher learning. The Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford in England is an early example, originally housed in the building that is now the Museum of the History of Science. The museum was built in 1683, and it is the world's oldest surviving purpose-built museum[1].

Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Historically, the focus of university museums and galleries included curatorial research into, as well as the display of, commemorative, ceremonial, decorative and didactic collections. For academics, these collections served as a valuable research resource. For students, museums performed both a leisure and learning function, developing their visual literacy, critical thinking, and creative skills. University museums have the opportunity to foster life-long learning. Typically however, students experience the university museum - if they do go in at all - the way they would experience any other museum anywhere, as something apart from their lives, and not particularly relevant to their developing skills in visual, creative, and critical thinking; they understand museum - going as a leisure activity, rather than a learning experience, and this perception remains with them when they go out into the world[2].

With decades, the role of the university museums changed as they started to become more open and receptive to the cultural needs of the public.Too often they mimic and see themselves in dialogue with more high profile museums around the country. Public educational outreach is considered now by many university museums as an integral part of their mission, some even adopt a market approach. Changes and decentralization of the institutional values coinciding with budgeting shortfalls in some cases “gave rise to tensions and a lack of cohesive identity among a demoralized staff”. Many campus museums “have critical needs for facilities, staff, and support”. In the 21st century, despite the challenges brought by transition, the university museums not only continue to play important role in object-based learning[3]but also perform important civic and cultural functions for the larger society.

I think university museum should focus on students and the campus community as their primary audience. The museum should focus on programming that engages student audiences through teaching basic museological literacy: how to read and use a museum. University should support these efforts. All the university's departments have collections of one sort or another; they can enhance all that the students learn.

In terms of promoting social justice, because university museum exist within a specific, academic community and don't typically have the same systems of governance as other kinds of museum, they can do a lot of things that these other museums can't do.

They have the ability to be nimble and address challenging themes. The university is a place for scholarship, debate and the development of ideas and the university museum can play a leading role if it is embedded physically and intellectually in campus life[4].

Organizationally, university museums are represented by a variety of historical, traditional and novel entities, such as anatomical theaters and archeology museums, natural science and art museums, history museums, planetariums, arboretums and aquariums, archives and house-museums, science and arts centers, ecomuseums, hospital museums, and contemporary art galleries, as well as discipline-specific collections hosted by academic departments and institutes; some special collections are hosted by the university libraries[5]. In general, university museums and collections are classified based on disciplinary criteria or the nature of the artifacts[6].


Ha Thi Suong


[2]Sandell, R., & Nightingale, E. (2012). Museums, equality, and social justice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 40.

[3]Chatterjee, H. J. (2011). Object-based learning in higher education: The pedagogical power of museums. International Committee for University Museums and Collections (UMAC) Proceedings, 3.

[4]Sandell, R., & Nightingale, E. (2012). Museums, equality, and social justice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 40.



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