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Foundations of Museum Studies

Evolving Systems of Knowledge

by Kiersten F. Latham and John E. Simmons


This concise introduction to museums and museum studies explains how these institutions must evolve to meet the needs of the societies they serve.

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Cover image for Foundations of Museum Studies

September 2014

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 155
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Archives and Records Management/Foundations and Principles of Archives
  Management and Administration/General

This broad introduction to museums benefits all educators who teach introductory museum studies, addressing the discipline from a holistic, dynamic, and document-centered perspective.

Museums serve to help us understand the past and navigate our future—as individuals, as societies, and as a global community. A careful and accurate assessment of a museum's purpose is crucial to its ability to serve its users effectively. Foundations of Museum Studies: Evolving Systems of Knowledge offers a holistic introduction to museums and the study of them from the perspective of specialization in museum studies within the context of library and information science (LIS).

The book strikes a balance between theory and practice, examining museums from a systems perspective that considers museums to be document-centered institutions—that objects are documents that generate and convey information, meaning, and inspiration. The authors utilize examples drawn from their experience with institutions in the United States that can be applied to museums across the world. Future museum professionals who read this book will have a broader perspective, an expanded skill set, and the adaptability to span the spectrum of traditional academic disciplines.


  • Frames museum studies within an information context and specifically addresses the interests and concerns of librarians
  • Benefits all educators who teach introductory museum studies, addressing the discipline from a holistic, dynamic, and document-centered perspective
  • Highlights how museums are embedded in a larger cultural complex that includes libraries, archives, and other information institutions
Author Info

Kiersten F. Latham is assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University, Kent, OH, where she has developed the museum studies specialization within the MLIS program. Latham has worked in a diverse array of museums over a 20-year period. Her published works center around the museum as a holistic institution, the meaning of objects in human life, and the lived experience of museum visitors.

John E. Simmons is an international museum consultant and lecturer who has worked in museums for more than 40 years. He has published widely on the care of natural history collections, collections management, and policy development.

Table of Contents


  • Preface Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1: Defining Museums and Museum Studies Chapter 2: The Origins of Museums
  • SECTION II: HOW Chapter 3: The Museum System Chapter 4: Dimensions of Museums
  • SECTION III: WHAT Chapter 5: Species of Museums--A Museological Bestiary Chapter 6: The Meaningful Physical Resource
  • SECTION IV: WHO Chapter 7: Museum Workers Chapter 8: Museum Users
  • SECTION V: WHERE Chapter 9: Museums around the World
  • SECTION VI: WHY Chapter 10: The Future of Museums
  • Index



    "It is well-written, concise, well-structured, and a good introduction to the topic."Systematic Biology


    "This is a terrific work and I'm so impressed with the amount of thought and hard work that is evidenced here. There is absolutely nothing else like this and it fills a real need for those of us who teach museum studies. I've relied on multiple authored readers and course packs of articles in the past and none of those have been entirely satisfactory. This is 'thorough composed' as it were—planned out from beginning to end—and is a big improvement over anything else available for teaching."

    —Brad Taylor, Associate Director; Museum Studies Program, University of Michigan

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