Museum Origins Course

What better place to study the origin of museums than the UK?! Join the Kent State University School of Library and Information Science over spring break 2017 on a journey through the past to explore the ancestors of modern museums and their collections.

Course Description

While the collecting of objects can be found as far back as ancient times in various parts of the world, the birth of the modern museum finds its roots in Europe. In the context of today’s world, students will “go back in time” to understand the origins of Western museums and the meaning of publicly shared collections through a series of competing dualisms in knowledge creation and organization. Students will explore the history of the modern museum and spend time visiting actual sites and collections that played a role in this history. Exploring the past in this way is geared specifically to help today’s museum workers gain a better understanding of their own role and purpose in their community, society and nation.

Course Details

Prerequisites: None

Class limit: 12 participants

Credit hours: 3 credit hours

Open to:

  • Graduate and upper-division undergraduate students from any institution, any major, including art, art history, art education, architecture, fashion, history, public history, literature, anthropology, classics, and more. (If you are not a Kent State student, please consult with your academic advisor about transferring credits.)
  • Graduates of any master’s or Ph.D. program, from any institution, any discipline (Note: Even if you do not intend to take the course for credit, you will be required to pay tuition.)


  • Feb. 27-May 7, 2017: blended 10-week course — online, synchronous online, and on site in the UK
    • Feb. 27-March 25: Online course, plus three synchronous meetings (online or live) March 6, 13, 20
    • March 26-April 4 (10 days): On site in UK, including tours of museums, sites and private collections, plus face-to-face discussions and student-instructor meetings 
      • London highlights: Kew Gardens, British Museum, Hunterian Museum, Sir John Soane's Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Darwin Centre, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, Royal Armories/Tower of London (pending confirmation of sites)
      • Oxford highlights: Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, Museum of Natural History, Bodleian Libraries (pending confirmation of sites)
    • April 5-May 7: Completion of research paper and peer review


  • Application deadline: Nov. 1, 2016
  • Payment deadline: Jan. 15, 2017 (program fee)
  • Course withdrawal deadline: Jan. 15, 2017 (program fee is non-refundable)

Cost estimate:

  • Program fee: $2,000
    • Covers application fees; museum/site admissions and tours; transportation to/from museums and sites, between London and Oxford; lodging; two or three group meals. All other meals are the responsibility of the student. (Does not include tuition, transportation to/from London, or personal expenses; see below.)
  • Flight: $1,500 (estimated)
    • Students are responsible for making their own travel arrangements and getting to the designated location by March 25.
  • Tuition: See tuition cost schedule for three (3) graduate and undergraduate credit hours on the University Bursar's website (click: Kent Campus per credit hour). (Non-Ohio residents will pay non-resident tuition rates.)
  • Personal expenses: will vary with each student. Considerations include transportation and meals during free times, museum and other admissions not covered by program fees, souvenirs, etc.

About the instructor:

  • Kiersten F. Latham, Ph.D., associate professor, coordinates the museum studies specialization and directs the MuseLab in the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University. She created the full suite of museum studies courses, including Museum Origins, and has taken this course to Florence, Italy, twice, with great success. She is the co-author of Foundations of Museum Studies: Evolving Systems of Knowledge (2014) and Objects of Experience: Transforming Visitor-Object Encounters in Museums (2013), which was named the Best Museum Education Book of 2014 by the Museum Education Monitor (MEM). Dr. Latham has been working in, on, and about museums for more than 25 years. 

Questions? Contact Kiersten F. Latham, Ph.D., at, or the SLIS office at 330-672-2782 or

Museum Studies

This course is part of a museum studies specialization within the Master of Library and Information Science degree at Kent State School of Library and Information Science. Museums, like libraries, are in the information business. The museum studies courses at Kent State employ a holistic approach to the study of museums as institutions that generate and perpetuate knowledge. Students will gain an understanding of museums in context as dynamic, interactive information systems composed of people, objects, and activities. Because the SLIS courses are structured within a library and information science framework, students are able to cut across the spectrum of traditional academic disciplines, which strengthens the skills of future museum professional by giving them a broader perspective, a larger knowledge base, and more flexibility. Students in the Museum Origins class do not need to be in the M.L.I.S. program, but should understand this unique approach to the discipline of museum studies.