To offer students the opportunity to combine practical and theoretical training in exhibition making with a grounding in the history and principles of display. To make students familiar with the basic principles of professional good practice in museum and gallery work, and to afford the opportunity to acquire technical competence in applying them. To develop in students the research skills appropriate to academic study of the history of exhibitions or of exhibition curating, and to provide the basis for them to develop the necessary levels of skill and knowledge required to progress to research degree level. To encourage both critical engagement with and enjoyment of the visual arts, particularly through first-hand observation, and to enable students to understand how to facilitate this engagement for others in an exhibition context. To provide the knowledge and skills (critical inquiry and argument, imaginative understanding, written, spoken and visual interpretation, communication and presentation, working in a team, basic project and financial management) that will not only stand students in good stead for more specialised museum and gallery careers, but will also enhance their opportunities for employment in a wide range of other careers. Note: The outcomes listed below represent the minimum that might be expected of an MA graduate from the Department of Art History and Theory of the University of Essex. It is the intention of the Department that the vast majority of graduates will achieve significantly more.
The MA in Gallery Studies and Critical Curating is a one year full-time course, recognised by both the Museums Association and the Cultural Heritage National Training Organisation. It offers a practical and theoretical training for students interested in devising or curating exhibitions.
Modules and Options
The lists of modules below represent the range of options available for each year of study. This may not be a complete list of the options you will study, and may be subject to change, so please contact the department for further details.
Core: CASE STUDIES IN THE HISTORY OF MUSEUMS AND EXHIBITIONS
Core: CRITICAL TEXTS AND ISSUES IN THE HISTORY AND THEORY OF EXHIBITION MAKING
Core: EXHIBITION (JOINT PROJECT)
Core: EXHIBITION PORTFOLIO (INDIVIDUAL PROJECT)
Core: KEY ISSUES IN CURATING: CONSERVATION, DESIGN AND DISPLAY
Core: MANAGING GALLERIES AND EXHIBITION PROJECTS
Teaching and Assessment Methods
A: Knowledge and Understanding
A1 : Practical aspects of exhibition making, including concept and research, planning and programming, drawing up budgets, negotiating loans, transport and insurance, catalogue production, security and object handling
A2 : The purposes of exhibition making
A3 : The range of methods for the interpretation of visual objects on display
A4 : The history and theory of exhibition making and of museum display
A5 : The display of contemporary art as a challenge to traditional notions of the gallery or museum space
A6 : The concepts, values and debates that inform study and practice in the field
1-6 are acquired through module seminars and related coursework (with regular feedback, both oral and written, from tutors), reading seminars, lectures, curatorial practice sessions and site visits.
Curatorial practice covers all practical aspects of exhibition making (A1, A3). There are workshop sessions led by visiting speakers.
Reading seminars debate classic texts relating to curatorial practice and the history and theory of museum display (A2, A3, A4, A5, A6)
The four modules provide for in-depth study of major historical/theoretical issues in the field (all outcomes).
Assessment of students' knowledge and understanding takes place through coursework essays (4 x 3-5000 word essays) and a group exhibition. The exhibition is assessed through an essay (one of the 4 coursework essays) outlining the exhibition proposal, and a portfolio, as well as through critical appraisal of the exhibition installation
B: Intellectual/Cognitive Skills
B1 : Analyse a complex body of material, which may be incomplete, breaking it down into component points or parts and highlighting the most significant among them
B2 : Synthesise evidence, arguments or ideas from different sources productively in a self-directed manner
B3 : Reason critically and offer judgements based on argument that can be communicated effectively to a specialist or non-specialist audience
B4 : Think independently and with an open-mind, sometimes making connections between familiar and new ideas or material
Intellectual and cognitive skills are practised in module seminars, either in responding to or giving presentations on agreed topics, and through the conception and execution of the exhibition project. The seminar work encourages critical discussion arising from the analysis and interpretation of exhibitions and other visual artefacts with an emphasis on being able to reason cogently, argue coherently, present one's own viewpoint persuasively, and learn from others. Site visits further encourage development of B2 and B4.
The seminars are intended as practice sessions for cognitive skills. Students translate the skills acquired there collectively into individually assessed essays and in exhibition plans.
C: Practical Skills
C1 : Curatorial skills; including an understanding of working with a wide range of visual materials in both two and three dimensions in a gallery, museum of heritage environment
C2 : Basic budget management skills
C3 : Research Skills: including use of appropriate methods to locate primary and secondary sources, and works of visual art, but also forming research questions and pursuing them autonomously
C4 : Critical Skills: including selection of relevant material, and appraisal of other people's arguments on the basis of familiarity with source materials and current literature
C5 : Writing Skills: including use of proper academic conventions, creating logical and structured narratives, and effective use of language to convey particular and general responses of readers or viewers to works of visual art, and to articulate complex conceptual issues and create frameworks for understanding them
C1 and C2 are acquired through the Curatorial Practice element and is reinforced through site visits and discussions in some module seminars. C3-C5 are developed in seminars and modules and through related coursework. Personal supervision is available to students in order to allow them to develop the topic for each essay in the relevant module. Considerable autonomy is encouraged in researching essays, the staff member aiming to assist in the formulation of research questions and in developing a strategy for answering them. All students are encouraged to attend the weekly Staff-Student Research Seminar, and to participate in debate on the topic presented.
Assessment is by essays and exhibition proposal, portfolio and installation.
D: Key Skills
D1 : The ability to communicate information, arguments and ideas cogently and effectively in a range of different contexts using a range of different aids or resources; special ability to deploy visual material in a variety of media in the context of presentations or written work.
D2 : Students should be able to make use of IT for research purposes (including searchable databases such as library catalogues and internet sources). Word-processing is essential.
D3 : Students should be able to use basic budgeting and monitoring, invoicing and record keeping involving correct use of budget codes
D4 : Management of projects and timetables. Students should be able to apply knowledge and understanding in order to make judgements and offer solutions in a range of contexts.
D5 : Students should be able to work in groups on practical assignments or find solutions to set problems
D6 : Students should have the ability to: work to briefs and deadlines; take responsibility for their own work; reflect on their own learning and performance and make constructive use of feedback; develop their work independently of guidance for extended periods.
Communication is developed through seminar discussion and workshop in groups. Visual media skills are developed through personal instruction to students using slide projectors or DVDs/VCRs in class, and through class discussion of the significance the medium through which visual object are presented to us,. Students are expected to acquire IT skills based on some initial guidance. Students will be given the opportunity to work constructively and productively in groups, and be able to participate effectively in seminars. Students develop group working to a high level. Most seminars require students to present theories or historical material to the group, and to answer questions on the topic.
Essays and dissertations are assessed for qualities that incorporate most of these skills. Students are assessed one a group basis for one element of their work.