Museum Cultures (MA)
- Status: Fully Approved
- Start date: October 2017
1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
2-3 evenings a week full-time or 1-2 evenings a week part-time, October to September
- Programme overview
- Apply now
- Why study this at Birkbeck?
- Course structure
- Entry requirements
- Fees and finance
- Careers and employability
- Teaching and assessment
- Our research
- Related study
The MA Museum Cultures offers you the opportunity to study this expanding and dynamic field at close proximity to the most world-distinguished museums and galleries. If you are contemplating a career in the museum and gallery sector and if you are interested in developing an in-depth understanding of contemporary debates about museums and their cultural significance, then this is the course for you.
Our MA gives you the chance to develop a range of key skills, from critical thinking and writing to practical experience through a work placement in a museum, gallery or archive. Museums have been of enormous importance in shaping empires, nations and cities, and their collections are connected to wider histories of conflict and social change. To study museums is to study the development and fierce contestation of our collective cultural imagination and memory.
You begin with a core course that introduces interdisciplinary perspectives on the study of museums and a research skills module where you work collaboratively with your classmates. You then take two options in areas of specialist interest and either an independent research project or a work placement in a museum, gallery or archive. Finally, you will be individually counselled in your choice of dissertation topic.
The Department of History of Art at Birkbeck has an international reputation for its innovative approaches to the history of art, visual culture and museum studies. Our expertise extends into areas such as postcolonial museums, museums in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, the senses and museums, architecture and museums, museums and art, museums and memory, museums and conflict, museums and gender, small museums, and museums, politics and heritage.
As well as regular gallery and museum visits, we offer an exciting study trip abroad every spring. Students are encouraged to become involved in the lively research culture of the department through the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre, the Architecture, Space and Society Centre and the Vasari Research Centre, which has pioneered the field of digital art history. In addition to the core teaching and individual research support, students benefit from many events in the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, including: the department’s postgraduate events; the annual Murray lecture where speakers have included Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain and Neil McGregor, director of the British Museum; and the programme of exhibitions and displays at the Peltz Gallery, the School of Arts' purpose-built exhibition space. Students are also welcome to attend other seminars and events across the School of Arts and at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
Our flexible approach to full-time and part-time evening study is ideal if you are thinking about undertaking paid or voluntary work experience in London’s museums and galleries during the daytime, while studying for a postgraduate degree that can give you a head start in a competitive jobs market.
If you have any questions please email our Admissions Tutor, Dr Patrizia di Bello.
We offer taster events and information evenings for prospective students interested in our MA Museum Cultures programme throughout the year.
Funds are available to support research expenses for your coursework on this MA.
Read a blog created by the Wellcome Collection's Digital Manager, who recently completed this course.
Listen to a podcast of our Head of Department, Kate Retford, discussing eighteenth-century material culture.
How to apply
You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application.
In addition to the online application, you will need to complete and submit a written exercise.
Need help with your application? Watch videos featuring our academic experts giving advice on applying to Birkbeck and answering some of the most frequently asked questions.
Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form, including our online personal statement tool, which will guide you through every step of writing your personal statement.
Application deadlines and interviews
Early application recommended, but later applications also considered.
Interviews January to September.
Why study this course at Birkbeck?
- Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
- In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), Art and Design at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment supporting world-leading and internationally excellent research.
- Taught by scholars across Birkbeck, including our Department of History of Art, Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies and Department of History, Classics and Archaeology. This programme offers an interdisciplinary perspective on contemporary debates within museum studies and encompasses museums in Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as in Europe.
- We provide students with supervised work placements in museums, galleries and archives including Tate, the British Museum, the Whitechapel Gallery and the Horniman Museum. Past students have helped design and run schools programmes, documented collections that were previously uncatalogued, conducted visitor research and assisted curators in producing exhibitions.
- This course of study offers you access to cutting-edge research by some of Britain’s foremost scholars and all the flexibility of evening study at Birkbeck. Whether you have a busy job, have other commitments or want to maximise library time during the day, evening study makes MA study work better.
- You can choose option modules from postgraduate courses including History of Art and .
- Students studying Museum Cultures are invited to attend postgraduate events in the Department of History of Art and across the School of Arts. Guest speakers include international curators, museum directors, art historians and artists.
- The department attracts a rich programme of visiting scholars and practitioners. Our History and Theory of Photography Research Centre and the newly established Architecture, Space and Society Centre offer students the opportunity to develop their knowledge of those areas, as does the Centre for Film and Visual Media which is based in the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies.
- The Department of History of Art has an outstanding reputation for offering critical and creative programmes designed and taught by leading academics and practitioners in the field, within a learning environment that is supportive of the needs of students from a wide range of educational backgrounds.
- With our location in Bloomsbury in central London, you can explore some of the world's best architecture, galleries and museums, collections and arts spaces - many of which are on our doorstep or a short distance away. The British Library is within close proximity as is the British Museum, Sir John Soane's Museum, Foundling Museum, Wellcome Gallery, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and V&A.
- We have a state-of-the art cinema and exhibition spaces, all housed in a historic building that was a former home to key members of the Bloomsbury Group, including the author Virginia Woolf and the artist Vanessa Bell.
- Birkbeck Library has an extensive collection of books and journals in art history and museum studies. You can also take advantage of the rich research collections nearby, including Senate House Library, the British Library and the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).
- The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
- We offer a wide range of resources and student support services to help you while you're studying with us.
- Watch videos of our postgraduate students discussing their experience of studying at Birkbeck.
The MA comprises a core module, a research skills module, two option modules, a work placement or an independent research project, and a dissertation.
Full-time students take the core module and an option in the autumn, one option in the spring, a research project or work placement in the summer term, and work on their dissertation from January.
Part-time students take a core module in the autumn term, an option module in the spring term, and either a research project or work placement in the summer term. In Year 2, part-time students take a second option in autumn and begin work on their dissertation in January.
The core module introduces you to contemporary debates within museum cultures. The research module is a group exercise wherein the class decides upon and collectively researches a topic, under the supervision of their tutor.
Option modules offer you the opportunity to follow specific interests and areas of research.
Indicative option modules
- Art Museums in a Global Age
- Curating as Critical Practice
- Exhibiting the Body
- Histories in Transition: Visual Culture, History and Memory in South Africa and Beyond
- Museums, Memory and National Identity
Research project/work placement option modules
MA Museum Cultures dissertation
Good honours degree in a relevant subject or equivalent (for example, professional experience).
For students with a degree in a subject other than history of art, the 1-year, part-time can be used as a conversion course. Students who successfully complete the graduate certificate with merit will normally be guaranteed a place on this programme and do not need to provide an admissions exercise.
A written exercise or sample undergraduate essay is required and applicants may be interviewed.
International entry requirements
If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each of the sub-tests.
If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.
Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.
FeesPart-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa
Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa
Part-time overseas students: £ 7225 pa
Full-time overseas students: £ 14450 pa
As well as fees, you should expect to pay other study-related expenses, for travel to and from College, books, stationery, etc. Birkbeck provides advice and financial support for students who experience hardship in meeting the travel costs of essential fieldwork or study visits.
On this programme, you will also have to pay for the following additional costs:
An optional field-trip is available as part of this programme, for which the Department does not charge a fee for attendance. Students are, however, responsible for paying all other costs, including travel, accommodation, food and drink and other subsistence costs, gallery fees, etc. The Murray Bequest offers a limited number of bursaries every year to students who would not otherwise be able to take the field-trip. Details on how to apply are usually circulated to students in December or January.
Payment and Fees Discounts
Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.
Fees discounts: If you are a Birkbeck alumni or a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.
Funding and Financial Support
The government's new postgraduate loan scheme allows you to borrow up to £10,000 to cover the cost of your tuition fees, living costs or other study expenses – and you don't have to start repaying until 2019.
Part-time students who are experiencing financial need may apply for assistance from the Birkbeck Alumni Fund Postgraduate Opportunity Bursary.
Find out more about funding and financial support at postgraduate level.
Careers and employability
Our students develop the ability to think critically and creatively, and to articulate their ideas persuasively. Intellectual rigor, visual sensitivity and informed debate are fundamental to
museum studies, as well as being transferable skills relevant to a range of careers. Graduates can pursue jobs in arts management, conservation and policy; in education, marketing and publishing; in the museums and heritage sectors; and in research and academia.
Find out more about these professions (choose 'History of Art' from the alphabetical list that appears via this link).
Find out more about the destinations of graduates in this subject.
Jobs gained by some of our BA and MA graduates include:
- Head of Learning, Design Museum
- Curator, Schools Programmes, Tate Modern
- Curatorial Assistant, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- Curatorial Officer, National Army Museum
- Head of Campaign Management, Science Museum
- Curator, Handel House Museum
- Head Curator, National Maritime Museum
- Director, Foundling Museum
- Curator, British Art 1850-1915, Tate Britain
- Courses and Events Programmer, National Gallery.
We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.
Teaching and assessment
Lectures and seminars, which may include structured as well as open debate, the analysis and presentation of visual material and small-group discussions. Research workshops include organised visits to museums, archives and libraries.
Staff teaching on this programme
- Annie Coombes
- Ben Cranfield
- Steve Edwards
- Luciana Martins
- Caspar Meyer
Core and option modules are assessed through a 5000-word essay. Dissertation of 15,000 words due in September of the final year.
Birkbeck is one of the world’s leading research-intensive institutions. Our cutting-edge scholarship informs public policy, achieves scientific advances, supports the economy, promotes culture and the arts, and makes a positive difference to society.
Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.
Further study opportunities
If you are interested in further research, we offer MPhil/PhD programmes in related subjects.