A History of Museums: 1550-2024

Online course

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

'A History of Museums' examines the ways in which museums and their collections have evolved: from their elite beginnings, to their role as symbols of cultural education, and to their place today in a postcolonial society.

Learn from our world-class experts wherever you are, whenever suits you: watch lectures live or view the recording later in your own time. You can experience the full breadth and depth of the V&A's collections with 12 hours of study over 6 weeks. Learn at your own pace: lecture recordings and study materials, lecture notes, copies of the presentations, and additional study materials are available in our secure Microsoft Teams environment for 6 weeks after the course ends, so you'll never miss a thing. And finally, join the conversation: share your perspective with your fellow students, and support each other in your further enquiries outside of class time.

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course photo
Portrait of Course Leader Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth

Course Leader
Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth

Originally from Northern Ireland and now based in London and Edinburgh, Caroline is an art historian, curator and public engagement practitioner. She is Director of Global Premodern Art and Lecturer in History of Art 1650-1900 at the University of Edinburgh. She was previously Curator, Ceramics and Glass 1600-1800 at the V&A Museum.

I love the opportunity to learn with people who are so knowledgeable and interesting. Previous V&A Academy Online Course Attendee

Course overview

From early modern princely palaces and porcelain china cabinets, to contemporary debates for decolonising the museum, this 6-week course traces the history of museums, 1550-2020. Expert speakers will take us from the creation of Cabinets of Curiosity, through to the Grand Tour and the French Revolution, and the creation of the first museums. This course sheds light on lesser-known stories, especially the role of women, Jewish collectors and Nazi restitution, up to current curatorial approaches by curators and artists. Throughout, it engages with the wider relationship between museums and the empire, and questions to what extent we can decolonise the museum today.

Other guest lecturers include: Dr Olivia Horsfall Turner (V&A); Subhadra Das (UCL), Dr Barbara Lasic (Sotheby’s Institute); Dr Jacques Schumacher (V&A); Dr Julius Bryant (V&A), Dr Isobel Macdonald (UCL) and Dr Sophie Morris (The Gilbert Collection).


V&A Academy Online. A learning environment you can trust.

Membership Priority Booking opens at 10am on Friday 13 October. General Booking opens at 10am on Monday 23 October.

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Online course: A History of Museums: 1550-2024

20 February 2024 - 26 March 2024


Call to book +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Need help enrolling? Talk to the admissions team:

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Open 10.00 - 13.00, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)

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