Museum Cultures (Postgraduate Certificate)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Central London


Fully Approved


One term full-time or two terms part-time


Two to three evenings a week full-time or one to two evenings a week part-time, October to June

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.

Museum studies is a dynamic and expanding field. If you want an insight into contemporary debates about museums and their cultural significance, then this is the course for you.

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.

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 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 of Humanities.

If you have any questions please email our Admissions Tutor, Dr Patrizia di Bello.

We offer information evenings for prospective students interested in our History of Art programmes throughout the year.

As well as regular museum and gallery visits, the department offers an exciting study trip every spring.

Funds are available to support research expenses for your coursework on this programme.

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 discussing 18th-century material culture.

Read more


  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 13th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2016-17 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 ArtDepartment 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. Listen to a podcast of our Head of Department discussing 18th-century material culture podcasts from our conference ‘Curating Now’.
  • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
  • 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. Read a blog created by the Wellcome Collection's Digital Manager, who recently completed this course.
  • Students 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 also 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.
  • 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, and 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).
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Course structure

The Postgraduate Certificate comprises a core module, a research skills module and one option module.

Full-time students take the core module, the research skills module and an option module in the autumn.

Part-time students take the core module and the research skills module in the autumn term and an option module in the spring term.

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.

Read more about modules
Visit the Department of History of Art