Postgraduate taught 

Museum Studies MSc/PgDip/PgCert

Curating Lively Practices INFOST5008

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course will introduce students to process-based, variable media and 'living' systems which challenge the institutional approach to collection or exhibition as a process of fixing, stabilizing or stopping time. The course will be of relevance to those seeking to work as curators in museums, galleries, libraries, archives and other cultural organisations and seeking to rethink those institutions - reimagining them not as solely keepers of objects but mediators of the agency of living matter or lived experiences. The course will debate the idea that artefacts (material or not, including data) have agency and the rubric of thinking through a work's 'lifespan' in terms of commissioning, curating, collecting, re-exhibiting, re-enacting, and conserving change over time. Examples of process-led practices, from performance art, bio-art and the biological life sciences, audience participation projects, interactive games, and temporary or site-specific approaches will be analysed. The course will be taught through a case study, seminar and lecture approach, with input from curators. Assessment is through project report/review and essay.


1x1hr lecture per week over 10 weeks; 1x1hr seminars over 10 weeks.

Excluded Courses

INFOSTUD5001 - Curating Lively Practices




Essay (2500 words) critically analysing a particular theoretical framework for liveliness or agency in relation to museum/library/archive and exhibition practices - 70%

Report (1500-2000 words), i.e. exhibition review - 30%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

This course aims to:

■ Explore the idea of behaviours and agency in relation to objects, artefacts and other cultural assets in museum/gallery and creative industry settings - with a grounding in examples of contemporary art and design but applicable to other disciplines such as biological life sciences and gaming

■ Explore how curatorial practices can account for the 'life' of a work, before, during and after its encounter with audiences, or in collections/exhibition.

■ Examine how curatorial practices have dealt with the behavioural characteristics of lively practices and how that enables a rethinking of the institutional structures of the museum / archive / library.

■ Develop skills in research, writing, analysis and interpretation, through a combination of lectures and seminars

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Recognise and identify 'lively practices' or agential materials in different disciplinary fields

■ Appreciate and analyse the considerations required for the curation and caretaking, interpretation of lively practices,

■ Evaluate and criticise constructively the methods by which lively practices have been curated and preserved

■ Display skills in critical reasoning and analysis of how liveness and agency is communicated to audiences and users

■ Apply considerations of the curation and communication of agency and lively practices to current museum/library/archive roles and tasks.

■ Locate and assess critically relevant primary and secondary sources, and communicate complex information both in writing and discussion

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.