This MA provides a broad based training in social science approaches to the analysis of material and visual media: ranging from art, photography, film and media within visual anthropology, to consumption, museum anthropology and cultural heritage, landscape and genres (such as clothing and the built environment), within material culture.
The programme covers a range of contexts such as production, exchange and consumption, and uses anthropological perspectives based on the comparative study of societies, historically and culturally. Skills training is given in social anthropological field research and analysis, and in specific methods for the study of material and visual forms.
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.
The programme consists of one core module (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits) and a research dissertation (90 credits).
The following is a selection of possible option modules:
All MA students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a 15,000-word dissertation.
Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, group presentations and discussion, tutorials, independent directed reading, interactive teamwork, laboratory and practical work, video, film and web based courses. There will also be visits to museums, galleries and other relevant sites. Assessment is through coursework, unseen examination and the dissertation.
Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Material and Visual Culture MA
The programme can lead to careers in a wide range of areas such as architecture, media, commerce and aspects of development work where an emphasis on the material and visual environment is central.
Recent career destinations for this degree
The programme is designed as an advanced research degree providing exposure to a vanguard and creative field within anthropology and related disciplines. Students learn how to apply ethnographic theory and methodology in material and visual culture to a wide range of case studies highlighting material culture in the wider world - ranging from art, through photography, clothing, consumption, cultural memory, monuments and the built environment.
The degree can lead to further doctoral research or careers in a wide range of areas such as architecture, media, museums, business and aspects of development work where an emphasis on the material and visual environment is central.
Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.
UCL Anthropology is the world's leading centre for the study of material and visual culture. We publish the Journal of Material Culture and several relevant book series, and have nine specialist staff in this field.
The department is one of the largest anthropology departments in the UK. Our excellent results in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercises and 2014 Research Excellence Framework show that we are the leading broad-based anthropology department in the UK.
Students are encouraged to take full advantage of the wider anthropological community in London and the department's strong links with European universities and international institutions.
The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.
The following REF score was awarded to the department: Anthropology
68% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)
Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.
The History of Design and Material Culture MA focuses on both objects from everyday life and representations of them since the eighteenth century as a basis for research and analysis.
The course allies theory and practice in seminar-based discussions that embrace various methodological issues and perspectives, including Marxism, discourse theory, phenomenology, semiology, museology, gender, race, class, memory and oral testimony. Depending on the material you analyse in your essays and seminars, as well as the dissertation topic you choose, you can also emphasise your own intellectual and subject-specific interests.
Since its inception in the late 1990s, the MA has garnered a national and international reputation as one of the pioneering and most successful programmes of its kind. As a research-led course, it harnesses the academic expertise of staff with a recognised wealth of teaching and research excellence in subject areas such as fashion and dress history, the history and theory of advertising, photography and the mass-reproduced image, and heritage and museum studies.
Under guidance, you will be encouraged to explore the relationship between theory and practice and to develop your own skills as an independent researcher, thinker and writer.
The History of Design and Material Culture MA draws on the wide-ranging academic expertise of staff in the fields of the history of decorative arts and design, dress history, material culture, museology and social history.
It stimulates innovative and interdisciplinary study in the history of design and material culture in both their western and non-western contexts, considering the relationship between local, national and international patterns of production, circulation, consumption and use.
The course is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, study visits and tutorials. Considerable emphasis is placed on student involvement in the weekly seminar readings and discussions within the two thematic core modules, Exploring Objects and Mediating Objects.
Based at Pavilion Parade, a Regency building overlooking the famous Royal Pavilion, teaching takes place close to the seafront and city centre amenities.
The Exploring Objects module introduces you to a series of different research methods and historiographical approaches, as you interrogate and make sense of designed objects in terms of how they are designed, produced, circulated, consumed and used in everyday life. It covers the period from the late eighteenth century to the present time and typically involves discussion and debate on the following themes, theories and methods: Marxist and post-Marxist historiography; production and consumption; gender and taste; phenomenology; object-based analysis; the use of archives; and 'good writing/bad writing'. It also introduces you to the academic rigour of postgraduate dissertation research.
This module complements Exploring Objects by focusing on the mediation between 'this one' (the object itself) and 'that one' (the object as represented in word and image). On one level, it examines how objects are translated in various texts and contexts, from museum and private collections to photographs, advertisements, film and fiction. On another level, it examines how objects are transformed through the embodied processes of everyday rituals such as gift-giving and personal oral and collective memories. The module therefore deals with the idea of intertexualities and how the identities of things and people are phenomenologically bound up with each other. By extension, you examine objects in relation to ideas concerning sex, gender, class, generation, race and ethnicity.
The centrepiece of your MA studies, the dissertation is a piece of original writing between 18,000 and 20,000 words on a research topic of your own choosing. It allows you to pursue a specific research topic related to your own academic and intellectual interests in a given area of the history of design and material culture, for example fashion and dress, textiles, ceramics and glass, product design, interior design and architecture, graphic communications, advertising and photography, film, museums, collecting and curating, and design pedagogy. The dissertation is largely based on primary research, often using specialist archives and surviving historical material.
This course makes use of the University of Brighton Design Archives, which include the archives of the Design Council, Alison Settle, FHK Henrion and the South of England Film and Video Archive.
Close professional contact with national institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as with local collections and centres of historical interest (such as Brighton’s unique Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, with its internationally famous collection of decorative art from the 1890s onwards), present research opportunities for students registered on the course.
The course is closely linked to our arts and humanities research division through a joint research lecture series, and we have successfully encouraged high achievers to register for the MPhil/PhD programme.
The student environment also includes the thriving postgraduate Design History Society as well as opportunities for conference presentation, professional contact and career development in the field.
The course has an extremely healthy track record in helping students to take up careers in related areas of employment and further study. Many of our postgraduates have succeeded in finding work as lecturers, curators, journalists, designers and design consultants, while many others have pursued doctoral research, most often also securing prestigious funding from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council).
We live in a material world, materials form the spaces in which we live and the objects that we use. Materials create and, unfortunately, may destroy the environments that we inhabit. Even in an increasing digital age in which the global economy and market continues to expand, the physical nature of materials is always present but it changes and is subject to contextual particularities, such as traditional practices, availability of resource and skills, emerging materials and technologies such as digital fabrication.
The programme focuses on process; the direct experience of using and making with materials; how materials are used in creative works, design and production; how new opportunities and ideas may evolve through reflective practice.
The programme employs a cross disciplinary approach and uses the workshops and expertise across Edinburgh College of Art. You will work with many materials including glass, textiles, metals, timber and concrete. You will also access and use various methods of digital fabrication such as additive manufacture and CNC routing and laser cutting.
The programme addresses directly important contemporary issues of economy, inclusion and sustainability, through the practical, collaborative and individual projects.
The programme is available to students from a variety of design and creative material practice, art, design, craft, and architecture backgrounds and from more traditional technologically based disciplines, such as engineering, looking to expand their skills and understanding in both material techniques and collaborative practice.
The programme is largely workshop- and studio-based. You will gain experience and expertise from a variety of tutors, support staff and technicians.
Periods will be spent in different workshops of the ECA, to explore materials and technique including: metals, glass, textiles and architecture.
As you progress through the programme you will acquire both skills and understanding of various materials, apply these in a series of projects that consider contemporary issues, culminating in a self-directed project, developed from your own experience.
The MSc in Material Practice seeks to provide core learning outcomes:
Opportunities exist with the many and various cross-disciplinary practices that operate in design professions such as product design, manufacturing, architecture and art practice.
Graduates can direct their career, having furthered their skills, explored and developed cross disciplinary design and creative practice and explored contemporary issues and themes. During the programme there will be opportunities to meet with other designers and industries.
The programme will also help those that wish to develop their own practice as fabricators, designers. artists or contractors.
Each of the above tests measure a material property but they do not consider the effect of a number of stresses together – the real life scenario.
The issue of expansive pyrite within existing houses is frequently in the news in Ireland. There are at present no direct simple tests that can evaluate the likelihood of future damage when stone containing pyrite is used within or under a building. A long-term objective is to develop a simple laboratory test that will evaluate the likelihood of heave due to the presence of pyrite, this objective will commence with the collating of existing information on pyrite.
Hypothesis: As noted above there are significant deficits in the testing of stone, particularly aggregates produced by quarries.
Decisions are being made on the acceptability of material for use in construction, infrastructure, rail, road etc. based on testing that does not replicate the actual conditions the aggregate encounters during its useable life.
Large volumes of marginal material must be considered waste unless an engineering use can be found for it. Our natural resources are finite and the best possible uses of the valuable assets. We cannot afford to dispose of material when there is a possibility that it can be better used.
Further the costs associated with inadequate testing of aggregates are being felt daily. The pyrite issue continues to expand in effect. Originally it was considered the hardcore under a few houses were degrading and causing aesthetic and structural damage to the a few houses. More recently it has been recognised that the problem is bigger and that a large number of homes are being affected. As of this week the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland (ACEI) has warned members that there is evidence of pyrite damage ion houses where the block work is disintegrating.
Methodologies: Before new testing can be considered the tests now in use, both in Ireland and internationally will be examined. This will be undertaken by procuring samples from Quarries – Morrissey’s, CRH (Roadstone), Murphy’s, Kilsaran.
Two sample types will be considered referenced based on NRA standards – Class 6F (capping) and Class 800 series (sub-base). Testing will then be undertaken on these samples to:
In cooperation with a number of large suppliers and commercial laboratories we propose to evaluate the existing tests by simulating the repeated loading effects of traffic, both road and rail and comparing these simulations with the existing tests.
As part of this research it is hoped to begin to evaluate the possibilities for the development of a test or tests to predict pyritic reaction in granular material. This will likely be a long-term project and will require collation and digestion of the existing experience both nationally and internationally.
Locally and nationally the use and availability of granular material influences productivity. Tests that do not predict performance are causing operational difficulties in a number of multi -national developments that have been completed or are in the process of completion. Very good granular material is a scarce resource and should be used only where needed – in effect applying the business strategy “just-in-time delivery” to infrastructure development “just-good -enough material”. Material “not-good enough” fails in operation and the knock -on costs are usually many multiples of the original construction cost.
(a) Recommendations regarding existing tests as to their reliability and suitability
(b) Recommendations as to further research for suitable tests for particular loading and environmental conditions – rail, road, aircraft runway
(c) Commencement of pyrite testing programme – this hopefully will develop into a long-term research project
Material culture - the study of archaeological material remains - is at the very heart of archaeology. Studying objects gives you a route into any field you choose, and the combination of theory, analysis and experimentation makes this course unique. Experimental archaeology gives us new insights into the processes involved in the production, use, discard and deterioration of material culture.
This course interweaves practical and theoretical approaches to material culture. You'll explore the theory underpinning our understanding of the material world through ethnoarchaeological studies while developing invaluable practical skills: from analysis of use-wear and residue traces, building reference collections, to making short documentaries for the heritage sector.
This course is also available as an MA.
Book History is a dynamic and rapidly growing area of interdisciplinary study that examines the book as an artefact in material culture. This programme brings together theory and practice in new and innovative ways. We study the production, circulation and reception of books from manuscript to e-books, paying attention to the histories of reading and authorship.
The programme integrates traditional bibliography, advanced theoretical approaches, training in special collections, and hands-on experience. You will be taught by leading experts at the University’s renowned Centre for the History of the Book. Field trips and work placements will allow you to take advantage of the exceptional collections in Edinburgh.
The programme attracts outstanding students from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. The degree is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.
You will complete two core and two option courses, along with training in research methods. You will then complete a supervised, independently-researched dissertation on a topic of your choice.
Option courses may include:
Work placements allow students to take advantage of the exceptional resources in Edinburgh for the study of books in order to gain hands-on experience that will be beneficial in their future careers.
Placements may take place internally, for example in the Centre for Research Collections at the University Library, or externally with several partner organisations.
You will receive training from the placement supervisor, and will undertake well-defined projects in the course of your placement, such as cataloguing, conservation, collation, digitisation and other kinds of work.
You will reflect on your placement in a poster presentation, and it will provide material for an academic essay. Regular academic oversight of the work placement will be provided by the Course Organiser.
By the end of the programme, you will have a firm grasp of:
This programme will equip you with the detailed knowledge and research skills you need to progress to a research degree and continue a career in academia; or you may pursue a career in publishing, libraries, and the cultural heritage sector. You will graduate with a number of highly transferable skills in communication, project management and analysis that will give you an advantage, whatever your chosen career.