MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies / Course details
Year of entry: 2023
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Our MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies course is ideal if you are considering a career in this sector and want to gain practical experience through placements during your studies, or if you are a professional and want to further develop your practice.
The course will see you examine diverse issues related to museum theory and practice, visit numerous museums, galleries and cultural organisations, and discuss ideas and issues with professionals and academics in the field.
You will take advantage of our excellent links to cultural organisations to access a range of exciting and valuable work placements.
Past placements have been at the Manchester Museum, The Whitworth, Tate Liverpool, Manchester Art Gallery, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester International Festival, The Royal Exchange Theatre and Chorlton Arts Festival, to name a few.
You'll also have opportunities to design and participate in live projects with cultural and heritage organisations in Manchester.
In addition, we take fieldtrips to cultural organisations in Manchester, the wider north-west of England and beyond. Regular trips include Liverpool, London, Oxford and Leeds.
We also run an international trip to Amsterdam or Berlin.
The course is continually being reviewed and developed in response to new research, emerging critical approaches and shifts in museum practice.
You can undertake a work placement in a museum or gallery, which involves a minimum of 20 days' work on a specific project, such as exhibition development, collections management or an education programme.
Many students carry on working in their museum when the work placement has finished, and each year a few students are offered jobs by their placement hosts. Work placements start in Semester 1 (November/December) and finish in Semester 2 (June). You can take the work placement as a 15-credit or 30-credit course unit.
Find out more on the work placements page, and read about our students' experiences of their placements on our blog .
You will also have opportunities to design and participate in live projects with cultural organisations.
A long-running course
This course is one of the longest established master's courses in museum studies in the country, having been taught at Manchester for over 50 years.
You'll have opportunities to get trained by experienced museum staff at Manchester Museum and The Whitworth in different aspects of cultural professional practice including conservation, collections management and events management.
Manchester is increasingly becoming one of the UK's most important cultural hotspots. Now positioned as the engine room for the Northern Powerhouse, the city is benefiting from massive investment in its cultural infrastructure such as MediaCityUK, the award-winning Whitworth and HOME.
Teaching and learning
You'll be taught and trained by our expert academic staff and experienced arts, museum and heritage professionals. Our course combines both guided and independent study, and includes seminars, guest lectures and site visits.
Most teaching takes place in small interactive seminar groups, involving, as appropriate, directed-reading, fieldwork in museums and galleries, staff and student presentations, discussion, debate, problem-solving and group-work.
Most course units run one day/week over 12 weeks, and there are variations in the number of class hours per teaching day depending on the course/week (ie 3-5 hours).
As a general rule, a 30-credit course includes 300 learning hours, which can be roughly divided as follows: a third in classes or class-related work; a third in independent study; and a third in preparation of assignments.
You will also undertake collections management group project (as part of the 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' unit) and an exhibition group project (as part of the 'Professional Practice Project' unit) in collaboration with a museum, gallery or related cultural organisation in Manchester or the north-west of England.
Full-time or part-time?
This course is available as a one-year full-time or a two-year part-time course.
We particularly welcome part-time students, and there are many advantages in combining study with work practice, whether you already have a museum post, or are just setting out on your career.
Part time students have classes one day per week in Semester 1 (in Semester 1 it's one or two days per week). You should also count time for library work/fieldwork that may require you to come to Manchester, and although sometimes this can be done on the day of teaching, often you will need to come in on an additional day.
When the work placement kicks off (about November/December in Year 1 or Year 2), you should also count one more day/week (on average) at the work placement institution (which, if appropriate or relevant, can be the organisation where you currently work; but undertaking a project different to your day-to-day work) - this is of course if you decide to take the work placement unit.
Coursework and assessment
Different units have different methods of assessment.
Introduction to Museum Studies (Semester 1 core unit, 30 credits)
- a 6,000-word essay (100% of the overall course mark);
Managing Collections and Exhibitions (Semester 1 core unit, 30 credits)
- a 4,000-word individual Fieldwork Portfolio (60%);
- a Group Fieldwork Portfolio (40%).
Optional units (Semester 2, 15 or 30 credits)
These are assessed by a combination of essays and project portfolios.
For details, click on the links to individual units in the 'Course unit list' section.
Dissertation (Semester 2 and Summer)
- a 12,000 to 15,000-word standard dissertation; or
- a practice-based dissertation (8,000-10,000 words and appropriate evidence/outputs of the practice).
Examples of past dissertation titles include:
- University museums and social inclusion
- Communicating Cultures: an assessment of the use of artist interventions in non-art museums
- Evaluating the educative potential of textile collections within the museum
- Missing audiences: the relationship between ethnicity and museum visiting in and around Southall
- Restitution in the regions: The Lindisfarne Gospels and the Lewis Chessmen
- Making the penal past relevant: the interpretation of history and execution in prison museums
- Revitalising musical instruments: Museum display, access and adaptation
- Histories and Her-stories: narrative and gender in museum display
- The development of Caribbean museums and the formation of national and cultural identities
- Natural history collections: Archiving the natural world
- Locating Scotland's identity within the Museum of Scotland.
- The presentation and interpretation of archaeological heritage in on-site museums.
- Representing the past: archaeology in the museum
- Recognising remains: the displays of Egyptian mummies in museums
- Photography, community and the E-volving museum
- Social Media and the reinterpretation of digital heritage
- Museum audience development in a Digital Age: Using social networking sites to engage new audiences
Course unit details
This MA is a modular degree made up of 180 credits.
You will take 120 credits of core and optional course units plus a dissertation worth 60 credits.
Full-time students take two core course units: 'Introduction to Museum Studies' and 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' (each 30 credits).
Part-time students take 'Introduction to Museum Studies' in Year 1 and 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' in Year 2.
These core units are designed to introduce you to key issues and ideas in museum practice, and also to different approaches to the study and analysis of museums.
All elements in Semester 1 are compulsory.
Optional units build on the knowledge and understanding you have gained in Semester 1, and enable you to develop expertise in a particular disciplinary area of curating (eg art or ethnography) or sphere of museum practice (eg museum learning, digital engagement or exhibition development).
Full-time students take 60 credits of optional course units (which are offered as 15 or 30 credits).
Part-time students take 30 credits of optional course units each year.
You may choose to take one optional course unit in a related subject area, eg Archaeology, History, or Social Anthropology.
Note that not all optional course units may be available every year.
Dissertation (Semester 2 and summer)
On successful completion of the coursework, you proceed to write a dissertation (60 credits) on a topic of your choice, agreed in conjunction with your dissertation supervisor.
Dissertations, like articles (depending on the journal), may be strongly based on original primary source research. They might aim to re-interpret an already well-trawled area of the subject, or they might take up an approach somewhere between these two extremes.
In all cases, however, the authors will have chosen and elaborated a body of relevant material which they bring to bear on a clearly defined issue.
Dissertation planning and supervision takes place in Semester 2 (February-end of June) and you continue with your independent writing in July and August.
You can either undertake a standard dissertation or a practice-based dissertation.
- Standard : 12,000-15,000 words.
- Practice-based A : Exhibition. An exhibition, show or plan thereof. Outcome - exhibition and/or plan plus 8-10,000 words reflection.
- Practice-based B : Policy. Develop a piece of museum policy. Outcome - policy or report plus max 8,000-10,000 words reflection.
- Practice-based C : Digital/online (building on skills developed in Digital Curating). Outcome - digital media application plus max 8,000-10,000 words reflection.
Course unit list
The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.
|Managing Collections and Exhibitions||SALC61061||30||Mandatory|
|Introduction to Museum Studies||SALC70101||30||Mandatory|
|Heritage, Museums & Conflict||CAHE60462||15||Optional|
|Business Strategies for Arts, Culture and Creative Industries||SALC60072||30||Optional|
|The Arts & International Cultural Relations||SALC60312||15||Optional|
|The Arts & International Cultural Relations||SALC60332||30||Optional|
|Global, Cultural and Creative Industries||SALC60402||15||Optional|
|Business Strategies for Arts, Culture and Creative Industries||SALC60702||15||Optional|
|Global, Cultural and Creative Industries||SALC61402||30||Optional|
What our students say
The practical skills I gained during my placement, specifically grant writing, directly translated to the start of my career in development at the British Museum.
The knowledge and support I received throughout my MA made me excited for a career within museums and gave me the skills I needed to succeed.
Victoria Stopar (2018-19)
In the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies course, I found a home for my background in writing and dual interests in visitor experience and digital interpretation.
In addition, programme partnerships with the Whitworth and Manchester Museum allowed me to participate in projects with real, practical applications.
Meredith Whitfield (2016-17)
The course gave me the opportunity to network with a large set of museum and arts academics and practicing professionals.
It also paved the way for PhD studies, and gave me the placement experience to make the transition to a different aspect of museum work.
Jessica Fowler (2016-17)
The small class sizes and hands-on training were my favourite features of the programme.
A friendly learning atmosphere and a close relationship with the lecturers provided an enjoyable and positive learning experience.
Elaine Ngan (2015-16)
The placement module was one of the main reasons I took Art Gallery and Museum Studies, in order to gain real workplace experience.
This was extremely valuable in giving me an added boost in practical experience for starting my career in the museum and heritage sector.
Lorna Hadley (2015-16)
See more alumni profiles .
The University of Manchester has world-class facilities.
We have the largest single-site university library in the UK along with a £24 million learning facility.
As a student of the Graduate School, you'll have access to excellent training within a dedicated postgraduate space where you can meet with each other, access resources, organise events and participate in a thriving academic community.
Find out more on the Facilities page.
Each year, a number of mid-career professionals take the MA degree on a part-time basis and find that The University provides a valuable space for reflection, as well as for further learning.