Combining practice and theory, the course explores curating, what it is and what it does encompassing the history of exhibitions, collections and research together with the dynamic practices of the contemporary curator. It is delivered by experts in the field alongside working curators. Students benefit from well-established relationships with a range of museums, galleries and contemporary art organisations of national and international significance. The course focuses on the relationships between contemporary practice, engagement with audiences and collection-based contexts. Our flexible and interdisciplinary approach provides opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to develop roles within curatorial and professional practice, progress their critical thinking skills and address new challenges.
The course also benefits students who wish to broaden and deepen their knowledge and experience in curating, engagement and issues around collecting. Its core seminar-based teaching and learning programme is balanced by collaborative relationships with a range of museums and galleries of national and international significance. These include: the Holburne Museum in Bath, artist-run venues and civic museums in Bath; Arnolfini and Spike Island in Bristol; Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery; the new Hauser & Wirth Somerset; Salisbury Arts Centre; and National Museum Wales’ sites in Cardiff. The course therefore covers a wide range of curatorial approaches, from management of historical collections to creative curating of cutting edge contemporary art, craft and design.
Course Structure and Content
Comprised of five distinct modules combining a ‘Masters project’ the course is offered in both full and part-time modes: As two modules per trimester (one year full-time) or a single module per trimester (two years part-time). The first two trimesters comprise taught sessions and assessed projects, while the Master’s Project in the final part of the course is by negotiated project only. Completion of the first 2 modules on the course lead to the award of the Postgraduate Certificate, and completion of the first 4 modules leads to the award of the Postgraduate Diploma. Subsequent completion of the MA double module leads to the award of MA Curatorial Practice
- The Role of the Curator: Considers the changing role of the curator and the ‘politics’ of curating. It addresses developments in critical theory and their impact on curatorial practices and includes topics such as representing communities, ethnicities, ethics, gender issues, ‘interventions’, gallery learning, the ‘post-museum’ and curating in the public realm.
- Research Methodologies: Introduces generic research methodologies and the ways subject specific material, analysis and evaluation techniques can be a vehicle for personal study. This module is undertaken with other Masters programmes in the School of Art and Design, and so gives an opportunity to share ideas with artists, designers and curators from across disciplines.
- Collections and Collecting: This element of the course considers the nature of collecting and the influence of collecting on curatorial practice. Students explore the way collections act as a ‘ground’ for new work by artists, makers and others as well as traditional interpretation. Students can study private collectors, the transition of ‘private’ to ‘public’, and the process of defining objects as ‘collectible’. The module covers material culture, collecting the digital, oral history and its methods, research in archiving and management of historical and contemporary collections.
- Reaching Audiences: Engagement and understanding audiences are central to curatorial practice. This module allows students the opportunity to present or study a live project. Students study current discourse and critical debate surrounding curatorial practice, drawing on the ‘educational turn’, socially-engaged and collaborative practice, public engagement, participation and learning to explore how different curatorial approaches reach particular audiences.
- Master’s Project: The Master’s Project is either text or practice based. It accommodates a variety of approaches for assessment. Examples might include (but are not restricted to) the traditional written dissertation, perhaps drawing on historical or archival case studies, research into and/or curating of an exhibition in a particular venue, and forms of digital production, such as the construction of a museum or gallery specific web site.
Teaching Methods and Resources
You’ll be taught in seminars, complemented with field visits to key venues facilitated by lead curators. We adopt a practice-led approach; while some sessions are delivered by our academics, others are delivered by our collaborators and relate to particular case studies or collections. You’ll frequently link your study to internships, volunteering and project work. We challenge you to develop your interests, while understanding what you share with others across our discipline and you will develop experience in ways of sharing and presenting ideas throughout the course.
Staff from across Bath School of Art contribute teaching and professional workshops. In addition, curators, writers and artists regularly visit: recent visiting tutors have included: Judy Adam; Peter Randall Page; Sarah Shalgosky; Julian Stair; Chris Stephens. As well as the major partner organisations in the region, recent individual study visits led by in-house curators and experts have included the Wellcome Collection, Sir John Soane Museum, V and A and the British Museum.
MA Curatorial Practice students also join research seminars and visiting lecturers within other postgraduate forums in the School and University. Visit Bath Spa University website page for application details
Assessment Criteria include:
• The ability to deal with complex issues in the area of curatorial practice history, theory and context, effectively employing skill in analysis and synthesis as necessary.
• The ability to independently plan and implement research activities in the subject fields of curatorial practice, demonstrating professionalism, self-direction and originality.
• The ability to effectively propose and curate exhibitions, drawing on research and understanding.
• The ability to initiate and contribute to debate and discussion in relation to curatorial practice.
• The capacity to advance knowledge, learning and skills in the subject fields of curatorial practice.
The course takes a broad view of curatorial practice. It balances theory with practice. Seminar based teaching is coplemented with field visits to key venues facilitated by lead curators. Project based work can be developed and assessed as part of the course, and students frequently link their study to internships, volunteering and project work, facilitated by the course team.
• Curatorial work in museums and galleries;
• Freelance curatorship;
• Galleries/Arts administration;
• Public Art;
• Critical writing, such as exhibition reviews and catalogue essays.
Admission is normally based on a good undergraduate degree in an appropriate discipline together with an interview. Applicants with a good honours degree in a related discipline and/or with relevant work experience will also be considered.
Overseas applicants will be assessed on the basis of their qualifications and statement included in the application form. To help applicants – especially those from overseas – to decide if this course is appropriate for them, it is advisable to contact the Course Leader prior to application.
Quotes from graduates of the course
Enrolling part-time on the MA Curatorial Practice at Bath Spa University has offered me a number of valuable reference points, from which I feel equipped with theoretical knowledge and confidence to embark on a curatorial future. In particular modules on ‘Collecting & Collections’ and ‘The Role of the Curator’ animated my enthusiasm for exhibitions practice both within and outside of museum contexts. I found much of the museological theory provided an intriguing starting point from which to expand my own dialogues, which have largely drawn on local contexts for my practice: that of The National Museum of Wales, its collections and their ever-evolving role, the artist-curator exchange, and the politics of the ‘frame’. My final MA long-study has similarly evolved from these positions, driving me to interrogate the curatorial act and my own reasons for pursuing this field. In this final module I have greatly benefitted from the academic understanding and support of my supervisor. Jessica Mathews
In my long study I studied the theory and practice of the display of historic and contemporary material that grew from my experiences as a volunteer at a Museum… in addition to providing a valuable framework in terms of historic and current curatorial discourse, the individual modules offer flexibility to explore and develop your own particular area of curatorial interest or passion. Sally Jones
Do I need a first degree in Art History or something very similar?
No – students on MACPR come from a range of backgrounds, including literature and art/craft/design practice
I am employed in a museum; will it be possible for me to work towards curating an exhibition there as part of my MA?
Yes, this is something we encourage.
I am an artist but understanding curating is important to my practice. How does this work?
The course is well used by artists expending their practice by studying curating, who benefit from the dialogues with other students. Practice based submissions are part of the course.