Course Overview

Attendance
UK/EU Fees £7,750 *
International Fees £12,500 *
Alumni Discount See details
Duration 1 year

* Price per academic year

Course summary

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.

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.

Course structure

The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.

You will choose five modules from the list of option modules below.

Core modules

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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). 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Partnerships

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

Course Team

This course is taught by academics at the University of Westminster as well as curators from museums and galleries:

Claire Dobbin, Independent curator and consultant
Madeleine Keep, Curator Adult Programmes, Tate Britain
Angela Kingston, Independent art curator
Dr Ellie Miles, Curator, London Transport Museum
Dr Tom Wareham, Curator, Independent museum consultant
Alexa Wright, University of Westminster

Entry Requirements

Typical offer

You will normally be required to have a good first degree or equivalent.

Applications from mature candidates with demonstrable relevant work experience and relevant professional qualifications are welcomed. In these cases, you may be required to undertake a written entrance test in the form of a short 1,500-word essay, and may also be required to assemble a work experience portfolio (consisting of testimonials, job descriptions etc).

If your first language is not English, you will need an IELTS score of 6.5, with at least 6.5 in each other element.

View more information about our entry requirements and the application process.

Typical offer

You will normally be required to have a good first degree or equivalent.

Applications from mature candidates with demonstrable relevant work experience and relevant professional qualifications are welcomed. In these cases, you may be required to undertake a written entrance test in the form of a short 1,500-word essay, and may also be required to assemble a work experience portfolio (consisting of testimonials, job descriptions etc).

If your first language is not English, you will need an IELTS score of 6.5, with at least 6.5 in each other element.

More information

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.

Our Career Development Centre has just been shortlisted for the Best University Careers Service in the National Undergraduate Employability Awards for 2017.

With a growing network of over 3,000 employers around the world and a team of experienced careers consultants, we are here to help you succeed.

In 2015–16, we helped over 1,500 students find work placements across a range of sectors, with 250 employers attending 14 on-campus skills and careers fairs.

As a Westminster student, you’ll have access to our services throughout your studies and after you graduate.

We can help you:

  • find work placements related to your course
  • find part-time/vacation, placement and graduate jobs, including voluntary experience
  • find international opportunities to enhance your employability
  • market yourself effectively to employers
  • write better CVs and application forms
  • develop your interview and enterprise skills
  • plan your career with our careers consultants
  • meet employers and explore your career options at our employer fairs, careers presentations and networking events throughout the year

Find out more about the Career Development Centre.

Find out more

Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture MA

Museums, Galleries and Contemporary Culture webinar

Fees and Funding

UK and EU tuition fee: £7,750 (Price per academic year)

Find out how we set our tuition fees.

Alumni discount

This course is eligible for an alumni discount. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply by visiting our Alumni discounts page.

Funding

As well as tuition fee loans, there is a range of funding available to help you fund your studies.

Find out about postgraduate student funding options.

Scholarships

The University is dedicated to supporting ambitious and outstanding students and we offer a variety of scholarships to eligible undergraduate students, which cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Find out if you qualify for one of our scholarships.

Additional costs

See what you may need to pay for separately and what your tuition fees cover.

International tuition fee: £12,500 (Price per academic year)

Find out how we set our tuition fees.

Alumni discount

This course is eligible for an alumni discount. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply by visiting our Alumni discounts page.

Funding

Find out about funding for international students.

Scholarships

The University is dedicated to supporting ambitious and outstanding students and we offer a variety of scholarships to eligible undergraduate students, which cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Find out if you qualify for one of our scholarships.

Additional costs

See what you may need to pay for separately and what your tuition fees cover.

Course Location

Our Regent Campus is composed of three sites all situated on and around one of the most famous and vibrant streets in London. The Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities is based at 309 Regent Street and includes recently refurbished social spaces and gym facilities. Students in the faculty are also taught at our Wells Street site. Westminster Law School resides at Little Titchfield Street. Alongside a full mock courtroom, hi-tech learning spaces and a pro-bono clinic, it also houses our state-of-the-art, 382-seat lecture theatre. For more details, visit our locations page.

Contact us

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More information

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