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Course content

Why you should choose this course:
-You want to explore emerging critical approaches and shifts in museum practice and theory
-You would like to undertake a work placement in a museum, gallery or related cultural organisation in or around Manchester
-You are interested in the rich museum and cultural scene of Manchester and the opportunities for case studies, fieldwork and networking on offer

Art Gallery and Museum Studies (AGMS) has been taught at The University of Manchester for more than 40 years. It is one of the longest established MA degree courses in museum studies in the country, and our alumni have reached senior positions in museums and galleries throughout the UK and overseas.

Today, the AGMS course is continually being reviewed and developed in response to new research, emerging critical approaches and shifts in museum practice. Manchester's traditional focus on the art gallery remains, but is now balanced by course units which address history, theory and practice in a range of institutions.

Throughout the degree, you will examine diverse issues related to museum theory and practice, visit numerous museums, galleries and cultural organisations, and have many opportunities to discuss ideas and issues with professionals and academics in the field. The AGMS course combines both guided and independent study, and includes seminars, guest lectures and site visits.

Teaching and learning

Most teaching takes place in small interactive seminar groups, involving, as appropriate, directed-reading, fieldwork in museums and galleries, staff and student presentations, discussion, debate, problem-solving and group-work.

Most courses run one day/week over 12 weeks and there are variations in the number of class hours per teaching day depending on the course/week (i.e. 2-5 hours). As a general rule, a 30 credit course includes 300 learning hours, which can be roughly divided as follows: a third in classes or class-related work; a third in independent study; and a third in preparation of assignments.

Students undertake also a collections management group project (as part of the 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' and an exhibition group project (as part of the 'Professional Practice Project' course) in collaboration with a museum, gallery or related cultural organisation in Manchester or the North West of England.

Course unit details

The AGMS MA is a modular degree with core and optional elements totalling to 180 credits. Core and options courses combine to make 120 credits with the remaining 60 credits allocated to the dissertation.

Semester one
Full-time students take two core course units: 'Introduction to Museum Studies' and 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' (each 30 credits). Part-time students take 'Introduction to Museum Studies' in Year 1 and 'Managing Collections and Exhibitions' in Year 2. These core units are designed to introduce you to key issues and ideas in museum practice, and also to different approaches to the study and analysis of museums. All elements in Semester One are compulsory. Unit details are below.

Semester two
Semester two option courses build on the knowledge and understanding you have gained in semester one, and enable you to develop expertise in a particular disciplinary area of curating (e.g. art or archaeology) or sphere of museum practice (e.g. museum learning or exhibition development). Full-time students take 60 credits of option course units (option courses are offered as 15 or 30 credits). Part-time students take 30 credits of option course units each year. Unit details are below. Please note that not all option courses may be available every year. Students may choose to take one option course in a related subject area, e.g. Archaeology, History, or Social Anthropology.

Dissertation (Semester 2 and summer)
On successful completion of the coursework, you proceed to write a dissertation (60 credits) on a topic of your choice, agreed in conjunction with your dissertation supervisor. Dissertations, like articles (depending on the journal), may be strongly based on original primary source research, they might aim to re-interpret an already well-trawled area of the subject, or they might take up an approach somewhere between these two extremes. In all cases, however, the authors will have chosen and elaborated a body of relevant material which they bring to bear on a clearly defined issue. Dissertation planning and supervision takes place in Semester 2 (February - end of June) and you continue with your independent writing in July and August. You can either undertake a standard dissertation or a practice-based dissertation:
-Standard : 12-15,000 words
-Practice-based A : Exhibition. An exhibition, show or plan thereof. Outcome - exhibition and/or plan plus 8-10,000 words reflection
-Practice-based B : Policy. Student to develop a piece of museum policy. Outcome - policy or report plus max 8-10,000 words reflection.
-Practice-based C : Digital/Online (building on skills developed in Digital Curating). Outcome - digital media application plus max 8-10,000 words reflection.

Career opportunities

How will the AGMS support my career goals?
The AGMS is an important entry-level qualification for anyone seeking to pursue a career in museums or galleries. It is also a valuable resource for continuing professional development for mid-career professionals. In addition, the MA provides a thorough training in the skills needed to do further postgraduate research. These skills in research design and planning are transferable to jobs in the museum sector, as well as being a vital first step to PhD research.

What are the career destinations of AGMS graduates?
Of course, job destinations vary according to the interests, ambitions and skills of each individual, but most of our students are successful in obtaining professional posts in collections, exhibitions, education, interpretation, or some aspect of museum/arts management soon after completing the MA.

Visit the Art Gallery and Museum Studies - MA page on the University of Manchester website for more details!

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