Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture MA

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UKPASS code: 045882 | Institution code: W50 | Attendance mode: Part-time day
Start: 14 September 2017
Duration: 2 years
Location: Central London
Campus: Regent

Important tuition fee information – please read.

Alumni discount.

Home/EU: £3,000.00
Overseas: £6,250.00

This course looks at the way that museums, galleries and other cultural institutions are changing to meet the needs of the 21st century. The MA has been designed for students who wish to work as curators, arts organisers, museum professional and other cultural managers and who want to know in particular how these institutions face contemporary issues. It looks at the changing role of cultural provision and how agencies, festivals and flexible organisations shape, house, fund, and disseminate culture today. The course also gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the contemporary debates about working practices in cultural institutions, and the changing context in which organisations operate.

The course concentrates on professional practice and you will work closely with institutions such as Tate Britain and the Museum of London, and conduct case studies into creative projects run by organisations as diverse as the Victoria and Albert Museum, smaller independent galleries and London-based festivals and arts organisations. Classes are taught off-site at other institutions, and involve professionals from the sector as much as possible to give you an understanding of vocational issues and a close involvement in the workplace.

Course content

You will examine key issues and themes in the museums and gallery sector, and explore how these are dealt with not just in theory, but also on a day-to-day basis by leading institutions. You will learn about the challenges faced by museums and galleries, how they confront them and how they are developing innovative practices in relation to their collections, exhibitions and audiences. 

Gaining professional knowledge is an important part of the course and you will be able to meet curators and museum professionals. The University also assists students to gain internships, work placements and to work on professional projects. 

The teaching team are curators, museum and gallery professionals, as well as university academics. You will be taught through seminars, tutorials, practical sessions and workshops, together with independent, student-directed study where students develop their own project. If you are interested in studying the broader theoretical context of museum and gallery issues you can also take modules from other courses taught in the Department, such as Art and Visual Culture MA.

Assessment methods include written coursework - essays, presentations, proposals and project reports as well as a final 10,000–12,000-word Major Research Project.

Modules

The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course. For more details on course structure and modules, and how you will be taught and assessed, see the full course document.

Core modules

Current Issues in Museum and Gallery Studies

On this module you will learn about current debates being addressed by professionals in the sector and with the pressing issues that are facing arts and cultural institutions. These topics range from the changing role of organisations as public bodies and what their responsibilities are, to working in a post-recession economy where public funding is diminishing, to the ethics of sponsorship from the private sector. You will address topical issues such as the inclusivity and accessibility of organisations to audiences with disabilities and how museums deal with claims for the repatriation of artefacts to other countries.

Major Research Project

The Major Research Project is an extended piece of research work. It is designed as an opportunity for students to pursue a topic of individual interest, where they work independently from the classroom, although the process will be supervised. The Major Research Project may be presented as a dissertation (an academic essay) of 12,000 words. However, the dissertation can also be presented as a creative project, for example as an exhibition with a shorter accompanying essay, an event or a project proposal. It could also involve professional work with museum, gallery or a cultural institution. 

Option modules

Choose five modules from:

Art Museums and Contemporary Culture

Students on this module are taught by the curators at Tate Modern and Tate Britain and discover how different specialisms contribute to the work of a world leading art museum. Specific topics include: how curators research and create temporary exhibitions and public programmes; how the permanent collection is displayed through different approaches; the role of fundraising and income generating departments; how the museum’s website is designed and its digital presence is managed; and how the museum conducts visitor research and works with diverse audiences around the UK. Students also study the significance of art museums and why they play an important role within the contemporary art world.

Collecting Today: Curating, Presenting and Managing Collections

Collections lie at the heart of a museum and they often shape the development of the institution. Collecting strategies and policies are developed over time by museums to enable them to plan their acquisitions for the future and to manage their resources. This module is taught at the Museum of London and each session takes a case study to a different aspect of museum collections. Students will examine the journey that an object takes from being proposed by curators to acceptance into a collection, conservation and storage. It looks at different approaches to collecting from archeological excavations to collecting contemporary life through clothing, photographs, printed material. We consider the role of contemporary media, oral histories and collecting with community participants.

Curating Contemporary Art

On this module you will learn the skills and practical steps involved in curating exhibitions in the contemporary arts. You will be introduced to contemporary theories about the role and function of the curator in arts practice. The classes combine practical exercises in researching, planning and developing curatorial projects with visits to galleries and art events. You will learn how to critique and discuss exhibition practice in galleries and also in alternative spaces such as art in public places. You will develop an exhibition proposal as the main piece of coursework.

Education, Learning and Events

On this module students discover the diverse approaches to education and learning within the museums and arts sector. The module is taught with specialists from a range of museums and galleries, for example the Royal Academy and the Science Museum. The module shows how education and learning covers many forms including workshops with schools and colleges to interpretation materials such as visitor guides. It explores the importance of public events from talks and discussions to late night openings to special performances. Students learn how education, learning and events programmes are developed and managed and how all of these aim to help engage audiences with a museum or gallery’s mission, collections or exhibitions.

Exhibiting Photography

Exhibiting Photography looks at different approaches to presenting photography from national museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, to commercial galleries and not for profit art fairs. Students learn about the range of contexts in which photography is exhibited, from group shows around a specific theme to solo artist’s exhibitions, from historical shows to contemporary work. It examines contemporary issues about exhibiting digital and networked images as well as new and creative approaches to showing contemporary printed photographs.

London Museums

London is famous for the richness and diversity of its museums and there are more than two hundred museums in the greater London area. On this module students examine the smaller museums that play a hugely important role in the cultural life of the city and museums often have passionate supporters and unique collections. Students meet curators to get insight into their working processes, how the museums are funded and how they work with their audiences. The museums range from local history museums, museums that have small specialist collections (such as The Garden Museum), museums associated with historic houses (such as the Charles Dickens House), and museums that are part of institutions like hospitals (like the Florence Nightingale Museum). 

Museum Narratives

This module examines how museums develop their exhibitions and displays. It shows that a museum tells multiple stories which demonstrate which operate on many levels and represent different forms of knowledge. This module looks in detail at the galleries and displays of the Museum of London and it is taught onsite at the museum. In each session a curator will present their individual approach to curating to explore different subject areas, such as archaeology, contemporary history or fashion and reveal the challenges in selecting and interpreting material for exhibition. You will also look at the background to museum exhibitions, display techniques and how communities can be consulted in putting together exhibitions.

Online Museums and Galleries

The internet has created challenges to traditional ways of operating and new opportunities for development, and this module addresses how cultural institutions are using it. On this module you will examine how websites can offer multi-layered environments and enable different ways of approaching the collections. You will examine the impact of social networking and how this is used by museums and galleries to build communities and to work both on and off line. You will study the ways that museums and galleries work with crowd sourcing, digital simulations and mobile apps.

Representing World Cultures

This module examines the issues and practices involved in presenting non-western cultures to a diverse audience through visual practices and you will look at how representation produces meaning. Key issues explored include: postcolonialism; globalisation; the relationship between photography and ideology; the ethics of representation; the birth of the museum; contemporary roles of western cultural institutions; and audiences as citizens and consumers.

Work Placement 

In this module you can gain first-hand experience of working within a professional context. You will undertake a placement of 110 hours (or three weeks) as a voluntary position in an arts or culture organisation. You will also submit a report about the job and the sector you have worked in.

Associated careers

Graduates will have the skills to work in a variety of positions in the cultural sector, including in the post of curator, consultant, arts and media strategists and advisers, funding officers or education and interpretation officers.

Related courses

Length of course

One year, full-time or two years, part-time (January start available)

Location

Central London (Regent)

Additional costs information

To check what your tuition fees cover and what you may need to pay for separately, see our What tuition fees cover page.

Employability

Our dedicated Career Development Centre is actively working with an ever-expanding network of over 3,000 employers to provide you with exceptional employability support and guidance. As a result we were nominated as finalists for a significant industry award – the NUE Awards Most Improved Commitment to Employability 2016.

We provide our students with work placements and international opportunities to support them in becoming highly employable, globally engaged graduates, and with one million businesses operating within 20 miles of the University of Westminster, over 84% of our students are in work or further study six months after graduation. Our graduates work in a variety of sectors and organisations, from small/medium-sized companies and start-ups to large not-for-profit organisations and corporates.

During your time at Westminster you will be able to use our comprehensive online vacancy service and meet with our experienced careers consultants, providing you with thorough training and support on CV writing, application forms, interview preparation and assessment centres.

In addition to this, you will receive careers support from academic staff and faculty work placement teams, offering targeted course-specific careers advice and assistance in securing a work placement during your time at Westminster. You can find out more about course-specific career opportunities by visiting the Prospects website.

For more details, visit the employability section on our site.

Career Development Centre

Our Career Development Centre can help and support you throughout your study and after graduation.

We can help you to:

  • find part-time/vacation, placement and graduate jobs, including voluntary experience
  • explore how to develop the skills that employers are looking for
  • plan your career development
  • identify your career options
  • market yourself effectively in CVs, application forms and at interviews
  • develop your enterprise skills

We also organise a range of presentations and networking events with employers, professional bodies, alumni and other organisations throughout the year to help you with career planning.

Find out more about the Career Development Centre.

Work Placements

Our Work Placement Teams are based in your Faculty Registry Office and can help you find a suitable placement, as well as support you in making applications, writing CVs and improving your interview technique.

More details on work placements can be found on our Work placements page.

Study in the city

If you study at the University of Westminster, everything that London has to offer is on your doorstep.

Our central London campuses are ideally located for the city's fantastic learning institutions including libraries, archives and museums, as well as opportunities for shopping, eating out, enjoying London's nightlife or just simply relaxing.

Accommodation

After choosing your course, one of your biggest decisions will be where to live, and we aim to make that choice as easy as possible. Whether you want to apply for our Halls of Residence or live in private housing, we can help you to find the right accommodation.

Fees, funding, bursaries and scholarships

In recent years the University of Westminster's scholarship scheme has been the largest university scholarships scheme in the UK, and our Scholarships Department won the Times Higher Education inaugural Award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students.

Personal tutoring

All students on courses of a year or more and who are registered for more than three modules will be allocated a personal tutor.

Your personal tutor will be there to support you from induction onwards, helping you to integrate into the University, academically and socially, at an early stage. They will be able to give you advice and support on academic and personal matters affecting your study, as well as developmental advice through regular individual and group tutorials.

Language support

Polylang is a University-wide programme through which you can study a language as a free choice module.

Personal advice and counselling

While most students overcome any problems with help from friends, family or a personal tutor, the University's free counselling and advice services are there if you need them.

International Westminster

With one of the UK's largest international student populations, the University of Westminster has plenty of experience in giving you the help and support you need to make the most of your time with us.

Study Abroad and Summer School programmes

Westminster's Study Abroad programme has been running for more than 15 years, and is one of the largest in the UK – each year we welcome hundreds of visiting students from universities all over the world.

If you are already studying outside the UK, the programme offers you the opportunity to study with us for one or two semesters, or for a period in the summer.

Sport and recreation

The University has extensive sport and recreation facilities, with a sports hall and gym at Harrow, a state-of-the-art gym at Regent Campus, and the University sports ground by the River Thames at Chiswick.

Students' Union

University of Westminster Students' Union (UWSU) aims to make sure you have the best university experience possible by providing a range of activities and support, from sports clubs to society groups, educational advice and social events.

Upcoming postgraduate information evenings

DateTitleLocation
07 June 2017Postgraduate Information EveningCavendish, Harrow, Little Titchfield Street, Marylebone, Regent Street
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Social Sciences and Humanities

We offer an exciting breadth of activity across the Social Sciences, Law and the Arts and Humanities. We are one of the country's biggest providers of Modern and Applied Language tuition.

Find out more in our welcome from the Dean of the faculty

Postgraduate student funding

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Find out about new student loans of up to £10,000 for postgraduate master’s study.

Partnerships

Modules on this course have been designed as partnerships with Tate and the Museum of London.

Watch the Webinar

Watch the Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture MA webinar on YouTube.