The Institute of Historical Research Library has a range of works covering museum and heritage studies. Whilst the discipline of museum studies is not explicitly part of the Library's collecting policy, there is significant relevant material in the history of the architecture of museums, patronage, personal testimonies and parliamentary sources. In this way, the Library's collections can provide multiple sources for examining the social history of individual museums, as well as resources documenting wider debates concerning the arts. These materials are supplemented with a growing range of methodological works covering both museum studies and the heritage profession more widely.
Due to the Library's classification, works are distributed across collections. However, multiple holdings concerning the methodology of museum and heritage studies can be found in the general historiography section at classmarks E.144 and E.188. The resources highlighted in this guide can be consulted alongside the related collection guides for the History of Art and Design, Memory and Commemoration, and Architectural History.
General Works, Sources and Other Materials
General Works - Museum Studies
- The Aslib Directory of Literary and Historical Collections in the UK
- A Bibliography for History, History Curatorship, and Museums
- Contested Histories in Public Space: memory, race, and nation
- The Emergence of the Modern Museum: an anthology of nineteenth-century sources
- History and Material Culture: a student's guide to approaching alternative sources
- Interpreting Native American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites
- Material Powers: cultural studies, history and the material turn
- The Museum and the School
- Practicing decoloniality in museums: a guide with global examples
- Public History: a textbook of practice
- The whole picture: the colonial story of the art in our museums & why we need to talk about it
- Writing Material Culture History
General Works - Heritage Studies
- British History and Heritage on the Web: a directory
- Constructing industrial pasts: heritage, historical culture and identity in regions undergoing structural economic transformation
- Consuming History: historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture
- Free Access to the Past: romanticism, cultural heritage and the nation
- Heritage and tourism: places, imageries and the digital age
- Heritage, Ideology, and Identity in Central and Eastern Europe: contested pasts, contested presents
- Heritage in the Modern World: historical preservation in global perspective
- The Heritage Obsession: the battle for England's past
- Memorylands: heritage and identity in Europe today
- The Oxford handbook of public heritage theory and practice
- Participatory Heritage
- Populism and heritage in Europe: lost in diversity and unity
- Rise of Heritage: preserving the past in France, Germany and England, 1789-1914
- Safeguarding cultural property and the 1954 Hague Convention: all possible steps
- Sport, History, and Heritage: studies in public representation
- Traveling Heritages: new perspectives on collecting, preserving, and sharing women's history
Titles on Specific Subjects and Institutions
Below is a selection of titles discussing subjects as diverse as the representation of the Holocaust in museums, how museums represent the Atlantic Slave Trade and the politics of heritage representation in Indonesia and Northern Ireland.
- The brutish museums: the Benin Bronzes, colonial violence and cultural restitution
- Decolonising the museum: the curation of indigenous contemporary art in Brazil
- The enemy on display: the Second World War in Eastern European museums
- Fragments of the Holocaust: the Amsterdam Hollandsche Schouwburg as a site of memory
- From idols to antiquity: forging the National Museum of Mexico
- Heritage after conflict: Northern Ireland
- The Jewish museum: history and memory, identity and art from Vienna to the Bezalel national museum, Jerusalem
- Museums and Atlantic slavery
- Narratives of vulnerability in museums: American interpretations of the Great Depression
- The politics of heritage in Indonesia: a cultural history
- Reimagining historic house museums: new approaches and proven solutions
- Time travel: tourism and the rise of the living history museum in mid-twentieth-century Canada
- Views of violence: representing the Second World War in German and European museums and memorials
- Visitors to the house of memory: identity and political education at the Jewish Museum Berlin
- The war that never ends: the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk
Trade and Organisational Histories
The library contains several resources on the appointments of staff, acquisitions, visitor guides, and changes to the management and running of museums.
- Mortimer, Thomas, The Universal Director, or, The nobleman and gentleman's true guide to the masters and professors of the liberal and polite arts and sciences, and of the mechanic arts, manufactures, and trades, established in London and Westminster, and their environs provides a full list of names, titles and addresses of the 'Masters and Professors of the Polite and Liberal Arts and Sciences'.
- The Dominion Annual Register and Review, 1883 provides an overview of the activities of several museums and art academies across Canada. For example, details of the annual meeting, staff appointments, exhibitions and acquisitions are provided for the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
- The library has holdings of museum visitor guides including, Guide to the Institute of Agricultural History and Museum of English Rural Life and Musée des antiquités de la Seine-Inférieure.
- London Statistics series provides visitor numbers, accounts and details of the establishment of museums and libraries in London from 1905-1961.
- Pearce, Susan (ed.), Visions of Antiquity: the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1707-2007
Parliamentary and Legal Sources
A range of parliamentary sources are held for different countries, including Parliamentary Debates and Proceedings, Petitions and Reports and Acts of Parliament. Examples covering the subject include:
- New museums: Bill to enable Town Councils to establish Museums of Art in Corporate Towns 1845. Bill to provide Site for National Portrait Gallery 1889.
- Museum attendance: Annual reports listing visitor numbers, opening times and costs for attending, e.g. South Kensington Museum 1857-8.
- Museum access: Bill on removing museum admission charges, Museums and Galleries Admission Charges Act 1971, accessed via ProQuest UK Parliamentary Papers.
- Museum governance: Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (Amendment) brought in 2010 - House of Commons sessional papers, accessed via Hansard on UK Parliament website.
Newspapers and Testimonies
- The Times online (1785-2013) has a range of resources relevant for the study of the establishment of museums, openings, public opinions and exhibition details. For example, an article entitled 'The Museum in New York' (January 1884), details a trial taking place in the United States Circuit Court concerning the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The article states that, 'the people of the city have taken the deepest interest in its progress.The museum is the pet of New York's best and most refined society. The attack upon the validity of the chief ornament of the museum, the Cesnola collection, has been a shock to New York pride.'
- Nineteenth Century British Library Newspapers provides a range of materials on museums including advertisements, news articles and opinion pieces. One example from The York Herald, (February 1857), details that the Council of the Society of Arts, 'are of the opinion that the time has arrived...to give just facilities across the United Kingdom for acquiring knowledge in art and science.'
- Breitenbach, Esther (ed.), Scottish Women: a documentary history, 1780-1914
- Lach-Szyrma, Krystyn, From Charlotte Square to Fingal's Cave: reminiscences of a journey through Scotland 1820-1824 notes of the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, 'Thence we proceeded to the Hunterian Museum, which belongs to the University and lies within its precincts. It is a rich collection of animals, plants, minerals, medals and manuscripts left by the famous doctor Hunter who studied at this University. The collection is valued at £120,000.'
Online Resources, Periodicals and Theses
A full list of electronic resources available within the library can be found here. Selected relevant examples for museum studies and heritage include:
- Museum Studies
- Museum Anthropology
- Cultural Heritage and Human Rights
- Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art
Relevant theses held in the library's collections include:
- Pearson, Catherine, Curators, Culture and Conflict: the effects of the Second World War on museums in Britain, 1926-1965
- Marchant, Joanna, London's Museum Environment and Civic Identity, 1851-1914
Current copies of most journals are on open access in the current periodical room on the ground floor and back issues can be ordered from the onsite store. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue entry. Selected relevant examples concerning museum and heritage studies include:
Within the IHR Wohl Library
Material relating to museum studies and heritage practices can be found across our collections. Of particular note are the holdings within the General collections and British History collection. Researchers can also consult the library's History of Art and Design and Memory and Commemoration collections guides for further details of relevant collections and resources.
The IHR also hosts a series of seminars relevant to the study of museums, archives, and heritage practices. These include seminars on Collecting & Display, and Public History.
Other libraries, archives, organisations
The Courtauld Institute of Art Book Library holds an extensive collection of 60,000 exhibition catalogues on a broad range of topics from museums and galleries throughout Europe, North America, Australasia, and other parts of the world. Similarly, the Wallace Collection library contains a range of materials examining museum history and the history of collecting including periodicals, exhibition catalogues, and auction sale catalogues. The Collection also runs a History of Collecting Seminar Series.
In addition, Senate House Library holds significant collections concerning museum studies. Useful subject-searches of the library's catalogue include: Museums – management ; Museum techniques ; Museum exhibits.
Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.
You can also book a tour or training session.
- Harris, P.R., A History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973
- Esdaile, Arundell, The British Museum Library: a short history and survey
- Fagan, Louis, The Life of Sir Anthony Panizzi: late principal librarian of the British Museum
- Kehoe, Sara Elisabeth, The British Museum: The cultural politics of a national institution, 1906-1939
- British Museum Department of Manuscripts, British Museum Catalogue of Additions to the Manuscripts: the Gladstone papers
- British Museum Quarterly
- Lach-Szyrma, Krystyn, London Observed: a Polish philosopher at large, 1820-24 devotes a chapter to the British Museum, noting that 'both the British and foreigners visit it in great numbers and it is customary for visitors to sign their names in a book. The numbers give some idea of the nation's growing curiosity and, perhaps, education.' He records over 120,000 people visiting the museum in 1825.
Imperial War Museums
In March 1917, the War Cabinet approved the formation of a National War Museum and it was noted in the Museum's first annual report that, 'the main lines on which the future Institution will be constructed have been laid down, and a small nucleus staff has been engaged.' The library contains a range of material, both relating to the history of the institution and to the development of its collections. Selected examples include:
- First Annual Report of the Committee of the Imperial War Museum, 1917-1918 (accessed via ProQuest UK Parliamentary Papers)
- Imperial War Museum Accounts (accessed via ProQuest UK Parliamentary Papers)
- Imperial War Museum Foreign Documents Centre, Provisional Reports 1966-1969
- Imperial War Museum, Handbook of the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, S.W. 1, 1914 to the present day
- Smither, Roger, Imperial War Museum Film Catalogue: volume 1: The First World War archive.