Netherlands, A

Design, Society and Cultures of Display in Museums

when 14 July 2018 - 28 July 2018
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 3 ECTS
fee EUR 1150

When you visit a museum, do you ever think about how the exhibits are presented to you? How can everything scholars know about a topic, and all the artefacts representing it, be condensed into one building or gallery? And how has it all been arranged to provide you with a stimulating visitor experience?

The ways museums present artefacts and knowledge offer us different perspectives on human culture. Each style of display, each form of classification, reflects and contextualizes our knowledge of the subject matter its own manner, while exhibition design aims to create a lasting impact on the viewer.

This course looks at how museums and exhibitions are structured and designed. Which objects are selected, which are left out, and why? Besides gaining an insight into the nature of museums and exhibitions themselves, you also learn about design and about the representation of culture – in the material, the scientific and the human sense. And you experience how methods of classifying and labelling objects underpin human culture and science, past and present, and present us with a particular historical and cultural narrative.

There is no better place to discover museum mapping than Amsterdam, with its plethora of exhibition spaces, large and small. From some of the world’s greatest museums of art and design – the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum – through many centuries of historical showcases of so-called historic house-museums, to specialist institutions devoted to everything from microbes to technology to non-European cultures, to social housing to bags and purses. Naturally, visits to a broad cross-section of these museums are an integral part of the course, providing you with hands-on mapping experience and insight.

Course leader

Dr M.H. Groot

Target group

Students and professionals interested in cultural history, design history and theory, material culture, science culture, anthropology, collecting, collections and museums. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Course aim

At the end of this course, you:
•Better understand the historical development and structure of museums for objects of design and material culture.
•Can evaluate historical knowledge in the context of tangible museums.
•Gain some historical knowledge of styles and forms of material culture and design.
•Better understand different levels of material culture and design (popular and elite) and the interaction – or lack of it – between “high” and “low” culture.
•Better understand how presentations of design and material culture function as representations of our society .
•Are able to present and contextualize design and material culture for a wider audience.

Credits info

Contact Hours: 45
If you want to earn more credits you can take courses in our other sessions to create a 4 or 6 week programme.

Fee info

EUR 1150: The tuition fee includes:
• Airport pick-up service
• Welcome goodie bag
• Orientation programme
• Course excursions
• On-site support
• Emergency assistance
• Transcript of records after completion of the course

An early bird discount of €150 is available for students who apply and pay before 15 March, and students from VU Amsterdam as well as from exchange partner universities will receive a €250 discount. You apply for the discount simply by indicating that you are currently a student at VU Amsterdam or at a partner university in the online application.

There are also discounts for students who attend multiple sessions, combine 2 courses and receive a €200 discount and combine 3 to receive a €300 discount. All courses include excursions. We will also organize trips and excursions as part of our social programme, which is a great way to get to know your fellow students and learn more about Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The social programme is not included in the tuition fee.

Furnished accommodation is available. Various housing options will be offered.


The VU Amsterdam Summer School offers ten scholarships that cover the full tuition and housing fees of one course. Information about how to apply for the scholarship will be posted on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.

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