MA
1 year full time, 2 years part time
Starts September 2017

Art History and Museum Curating

Gain the skills to take part in the exciting world of museums, galleries and the cultural heritage sector. 

On this MA, you’ll work with academics and museum professionals – these have previously included senior staff from the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, the V&A, the National Trust, the Science Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York – to explore the history, theory and politics of art institutions and to build a critical framework for the practice of curating.  

You visit a number of museums in Sussex and in London, allowing you to learn first-hand about institutional histories, collections, permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions. 

Key facts

  • 100% of our research was rated world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).
  • You will be taught by academics who have long-standing relationships with museums across the UK and direct experience of curating exhibitions and permanent collections in the museums and galleries sector.
  • You will benefit from our long-standing partnerships with local and national museums and collections – including the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, Historic Royal Palaces, the National Trust, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and Charleston – providing access to expertise, art objects and research materials.

How will I study?

In the autumn and spring terms, you take museum skills modules at Sussex and visit local and national collections. With your tutors and classmates, you debate a range of ethical concerns facing museum curators. The summer term is taken up with a work placement.

This MA introduces you to:

  • curatorial scholarship and its methodologies
  • the histories of museums and their collections
  • the ethical and legal frameworks within which curators and museums work
  • the nature and politics of museum displays.

Assessed work includes term papers, practical assignments, a learning journal (written during the placement as a reflection on that experience) and a 12,000-word dissertation.

Work placement

In the summer term, you undertake a work placement in one of our partner museums or galleries, acquiring vocational skills and practical experience.

Full-time and part-time study

Choose to study this course full time or part time, to fit around your work and family life. Modules for the full-time course are listed below.

For details about the part-time course, contact course co-ordinator Sophie Heath at sophie.heath@sussex.ac.uk

What will I study?

  • Module list

    Core modules

    Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

    • Art History Research Seminar

      0 credits
      All Year Teaching, Year 1

      This is a non-credit research seminar class.

    • Art History Research Skills and Methods

      0 credits
      All Year Teaching, Year 1

      This is a non-credit research skills class.

    • Critical Issues in Art History and Curating

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module covers some of the central topics and methods of current art historical practice as applied to a wide range of specific geographic and historical contexts. Engaging with some of art history's historiographical and methodological approaches, you will evaluate diverse interpretive approaches, such as feminism, iconology, agency, gift giving, and post colonialism. The module develops your the ability to interpret, critique and apply a range of methodological positions and highlights the position of art history as a discipline both responding to and acting upon problems of understanding cultural practices. The module material may be contradictory or even explicitly oppositional, and you will be expected and encouraged to develop an independent position on it.

    • Museum Skills I: Objects

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      The module sets out to equip you with a range of core museum skills, above all in familiarity with the objects of display.  Skills you will develop include how to describe an object in various ways depending on audience, how to handle an object, and how to look after an object. You will deal with issues such as materials and visual appearance such as style analysis, iconography/subject matter, describing an object, and thinking about where visual appearance of an object comes from. You will also cover issues relating to the practical interpretation of objects in museums, including catalogue entries of different sorts, web materials, labels, and exhibition publications.

    • Museum Skills II: Contexts and Display

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module builds on the work from Museum Skills I. It introduces you to a range of further skills and issues in museum practice, both through seminar teaching and site visits and discussion. Areas to be covered will include exhibitions (how curators put an exhibition together, the role of an Education Department in disseminating different learning styles); the historical and political contexts of museums and how this affects display; how museums work on a practical level; and the museum as a research resource (collection databases, archives and stores, and accessions and policies).

    • Placement (Art History & Museum Curating)

      60 credits
      Summer Teaching, Year 1

      This placement offers you the chance to put the practical and conceptual skills learnt throughout the programme into practice. You will be assigned a placement at a museum or gallery, in discussion with your tutors, where you will work for a minimum of 120 hours between the end of the spring term and the end of August.

    Options

    Alongside your core modules, you can choose options to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests.

    • Renaissance Prints and the Workshop Tradition

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module examines the impact of new printing technologies on the production and dissemination of knowledge in early modern Europe. In particular, we consider the period's renewed interest in study of the natural world, including human anatomy. This study not only sought to shed new light on the texts of ancient authors such as Galen, but also brought about a reconceptualization of the relationship between knowledge and the body during the 16th century.

      Case studies will include:

      • the woodcuts of ‘living écorché figures’ in Andreas Vesalius’s well-known and by now canonical treatise On the fabric of the human body (1543)
      • studies of plants and animals from natural histories and some of the first European images of the landscapes
      • peoples of the so called ‘New World’ of the Americas.
    • Art History's Queer Stories

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      You will question the way art history and its institutions reproduce normative discourses about gender and sexual orientation.

      Firstly, you will study how homosexuality was represented in 19th- and 20th-century visual culture, and how artists have worked within and against such representations.

      Secondly, you'll explore theory such as feminist, queer and postcolonial as well as psychoanalysis to help understand how sexuality and other markers of difference, like race and class, appear in art history and visual culture.

      You draw from a selection of ephemera, artwork, documents and “sticky objects” in Sussex and London collections to find your own ways to analyse representations of non-normative sexualities in the context of private and public spaces, archives, museums and galleries.

      This module provides a forum for discussing queer visualities from the past and currently, taking into account the narratives of curators, the queering of collections and art activism.

    • Body and Society: Representing Women

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      From the 1970s onwards, women artists, curators and cultural theorists have actively intervened in contemporary politics. In contesting images of women and representations of the gendered body, they have challenged regimes of power and knowledge. In this course you will consider the role of gender in critical writing as well as in art practice.

    • Photography and 20th Century Visual Culture

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module is based on seminar analysis of material examples, such as photographic prints, albums and publications from across a range of formats. They have been drawn from the collection of The Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC), London, and the module is a joint project in development between the University of Sussex and the AMC to encourage a first-hand critical engagement with photography at a post-graduate level. Our seminars take the form of discussions supplemented by short presentations and explications considering issues around producers, contexts and methods, and strategies of picture-making in relation to social function, for example, the question of the relationship between anthropology and documentary.

    • Power of Images of Byzantium

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

    • Renaissance Prints and the Workshop Tradition

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module will examine a central issue in Renaissance painting: the tension between the creation of works of art in workshops and our understanding of originality. The corporate approach to making paintings was recognised by clients in the period and is the subject of monographs today but, as art historians, curators and critics, we persist in making distinctions between works by the master painter and works that we characterise as evincing 'workshop intervention'. The problems that this language masks will be a key concern for the module. We will look at Renaissance texts concerning art, at economics and at issues of politics and social life to evaluate some of the pressures on production, and we will use scientific data to examine methods of production. Module themes will concern the significance of the workshop for the identity of the painter and the creation and understanding of quality in the period.

    • Visual and Material Cultures

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module considers modernity in the context of the 19th and early 20th century. You will consider visual culture in the context of this period of rapid change and explore interrelationships across cultures in Europe and North America, and imperial spaces beyond Europe.

      You will consider the new institutions and mass media that disseminated the visual, addressing a variety of images ranging from paintings to new forms of popular mass culture. You will also have the chance to draw on primary material in the form of periodical collections held in the University of Sussex library.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honours degree or above in art history or another relevant humanities or social science discipline.

English language requirements

Standard level (IELTS 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each section)

Find out about other English language qualifications we accept.

English language support

Don’t have the English language level for your course? Find out more about our pre-sessional courses.

Additional information for international students

We welcome applications from all over the world. Find out about international qualifications suitable for our Masters courses.

Visas and immigration

Find out how to apply for a student visa


Fees and scholarships

How much does it cost?

Fees

Home: £10,250 per year

EU: £10,250 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: £10,250 per year

Overseas: £21,000 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

How can I fund my course?

Postgraduate Masters loans

Borrow up to £10,280 to contribute to your postgraduate study.

Find out more about Postgraduate Masters Loans

Scholarships

Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.

Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship (2017)

Open to students with a 1st class from a UK university or excellent grades from an EU university and offered a F/T place on a Sussex Masters in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship

Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2017)

Open to Sussex students who graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and offered a full-time place on a Sussex Masters course in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Graduate Scholarship

Sussex India Scholarships (2017)

Sussex India Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from India commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex India Scholarships

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Malaysia commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Malaysia Scholarships

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships are worth £3,500 or £5,000 and are for overseas fee paying students from Nigeria commencing a Masters in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Nigeria Scholarships

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Pakistan commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Pakistan Scholarships

How Masters scholarships make studying more affordable

Living costs

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex.


Faculty

The Department of Art History provides a dynamic and stimulating environment for postgraduate study. We have particular strengths in Byzantine, Renaissance and Eighteenth-century art; modern and contemporary art and visual culture; photography, feminist art history, postcolonial discourse and curating. 

The Department of Art History plays a part in the:

  • Centre for Photography and Visual Culture
  • Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies
  • Centre for Byzantine Cultural History.
  • Faculty profiles

    Dr Benedict Burbridge
    Senior Lecturer in Art History
    B.F.Burbridge@sussex.ac.uk

    Research interests: Art History, Art Theory & Aesthetics, Critical Theory, cultural politics, Digital Culture, Museum And Gallery Studies, Photography art and politics, Photography History, Theory and Practice

    View profile

    Dr Meaghan Clarke
    Senior Lecturer in Art History
    M.E.Clarke@sussex.ac.uk

    Research interests: 20th Century Visual Culture, Art History, british art, Gender Studies, history of collecting, Imperial/Colonial History, Print Culture, Victorian studies

    View profile

    Dr Flora Dennis
    Senior Lecturer In Art History
    F.Dennis@sussex.ac.uk

    Research interests: Art and design, Domestic interiors, Early modern Italy, History of sound, material culture, Music

    View profile

    Prof Liz James
    Professor of History of Art
    E.James@sussex.ac.uk

    Research interests: Byzantine art, Byzantine culture and society, colour, gender, mosaics, sensory perceptions

    View profile

    Prof David Mellor
    Professor of History of Art
    D.A.Mellor@sussex.ac.uk

    Research interests: Sixties artists

    View profile

    Prof Geoffrey Quilley
    Professor of Art History
    G.Quilley@sussex.ac.uk

    Research interests: Art History, british art, British Empire, Eighteenth-century culture, Imperial/Colonial History, maritime history, Post-Colonial Studies, Slavery, Travel

    View profile

This MA is designed to create a generation of museum professionals who are superbly equipped to respond to the challenges and opportunities in the world’s museums and galleries sector.”Carolyn Sargentson
Senior Lecturer in Art History

Careers

You gain knowledge about objects and collections, and develop a critical awareness of museum practices.

You develop communication and project management skills. These skills provide the practical and theoretical foundation for careers in:

  • museums
  • galleries
  • heritage at curatorial level
  • the cultural sector more broadly.

Graduate destinations

100% of students from the Department of Art History were in work or further study six months after graduating. Our students have gone on to roles including:

  • archaeologist, Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA)
  • exhibition director, Soka Art Centre
  • project curator, British Museum.

(EPI, Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015 for postgraduates)

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work

“My MA placement at Tate Britain helped me put all the theory we’d learnt into practice – which aptly prepared me for employment.” Lizzie BracegirdleMedia space assistant
Science Museum, London

Contact us