• University of Leicester
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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

29,124 enrolled on this course

The Museum of Liverpool at night - an example of the 21st century museum
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

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 seconds Museums 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 seconds In 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.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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.

What do people say about this course?

"I think this course will impact my collaboration with museums. I saw many interesting details on the course about how museums are structured which made me understand them better. The course won’t only help me to work with museum and gallery partners more closely but will allow me to create exhibitions from a different perspective."

Who will you learn with?

Professor Suzanne MacLeod is Co-director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester.

Researcher in Museum Studies

Professor of Museum Studies and Co-Director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

Who developed the course?

University of Leicester

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

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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control

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