Museums may be repositories for history, but the history of museums isn’t especially long. The notion of a collection meriting study emerged during the Renaissance and just after, as the very wealthy assembled cabinets of curiosities showing petrified arachnids alongside amethysts and Altdorfers. Add to that mix Enlightenment ideals of education and fast forward to the 19th century with the rise of leisure time and a middle class -- only then did museums become destinations for everyday citizens. This course will examine museums from a multiplicity of perspectives, exploring the important trends emerging in the field and delving into the unique challenges these institutions face in the 21st century. Topics include globalization, restitution claims, private-collector museums, access issues, ethical issues surrounding de-accessioning, the use of digital technology, and more. We’ll read what critics and scholars have to say, see how artists have responded to and critiqued these institutions, and then meet an array of Washington museum professionals who will share their insights into the stewardship of national collections and the future of cultural leadership.