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Online course

Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum

Get an introduction to museum studies with this free online course. Learn about the people and ideas that shape museums today


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum

Why join the course?

How can we understand museums today? Who are museums for and why are they working to engage new audiences? How do we respond emotionally to museum objects and spaces? And how can museums play a role in the pursuit of social justice, human rights, or health and wellbeing?

Learn how modern museums impact our world

In this this free online course, you will explore all of these topics through a range of inspirational case studies and thought-provoking ideas. These show how modern museums seek to impact our contemporary world.

Throughout, you will be encouraged to share your thoughts and contribute to these key questions from your own perspective.

Meet museum studies researchers and professionals

The course has been created by leading academic researchers and museum professionals in the field of museum studies. It is a collaboration between the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester and National Museums Liverpool.

The University of Leicester has played a key role in the development of the field of museum studies over the last 50 years and is home to an amazing body of world-leading research and a site for inspirational teaching.

National Museums Liverpool is one of the UK’s leading museum services, where you can see first-hand how museum professionals today imagine and make the modern, 21st century museum.

Photo image © Ben Kirkpatrick

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 secondsMuseums and galleries play a really important role in society. If we think about our towns and cities, there are actually very few places we can go with friends and family, or on our own, and share an experience with people we don't know. In museums and galleries, we can learn about the past, but not by reading a book or watching a film-- by moving through the museum and engaging with objects and collections, and stories.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsIn many museums today, we can engage in contemporary debates, and learn about the people around us and their lives. And so, in that sense, museums play a really vital role in giving us a sense of shared experience-- almost an understanding of what it means to be human. The MOOC is a collaboration between the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester, and National Museums Liverpool. In the School of Museum Studies, we work with a whole range of museums and galleries to develop world-leading research, and deliver training to a whole range of museum professionals.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds Here at National Museums Liverpool, we have one of the UK's leading museum services, and we can learn a great deal about their work by looking at it through the lens of the research and teaching in the school. All of this expertise is drawn together in this MOOC. The MOOC covers a range of topics-- from growing audiences to thinking about how museums and galleries design for emotion. We'll also think about issues of social responsibility and human rights, and also how to build the 21st-century museum. If you're curious about museums, and want to know more about the people and ideas that shape them today, you'll find this MOOC helpful.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds If you're working in the cultural sector, or you aspire to a career in the cultural sector, the MOOC will give you information on access to training and research at the University of Leicester. Finally, if you're running a museum, and you're working hard to grow audiences and engage in contemporary debates, then you'll find inspirational projects, ideas, and research inside the MOOC. The partnership between the School of Museum Studies and National Museums Liverpool is longstanding. Staff here in the museums collaborate with academics on research projects, and come and take part in the teaching. Equally, academics in the school come and get involved in projects in the museums. It's a really productive relationship that adds value to both organisations.

Skip to 2 minutes and 52 seconds I love working in museum studies, because I get to work with brilliant people in brilliant places who are values-driven, and who really care that we all have access to engaging, inspiring, and life-affirming social spaces. Leicester is a real hub for this work, and hundreds of people pass through the school every year, whether it's to take part in research or training both on campus and at a distance. It's a real privilege to see people go out into the profession and build their careers.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in museums. You might be a current or prospective student, who wants to find out more about training in museum studies; a museum volunteer; or a museum practitioner. No prior knowledge or equipment is required.

Who will you learn with?

Suzanne MacLeod

Dr Suzanne MacLeod is Director and Head of School of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

Jocelyn Dodd

Researcher in Museum Studies

Richard Sandell

Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

Who developed the course?

The University of Leicester is a leading research led university with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching. It is consistently ranked amongst the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom.

National Museums Liverpool is one of the world’s great museum organisations. We hold in trust and safeguard some of the world’s most important museum collections covering the human and natural worlds.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.

£34.00 + shipping

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.