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MA Curatorial Practice

Course Description

This innovative course benefits from collaborative relationships with museums and galleries of national and international significance, notably the Holburne Museum, Bath; Spike Island, Bristol; Arnolfini, Bristol; and Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.

It covers a wide range of curatorial approaches, from management of the historical collection to creative curating of contemporary art, craft and design. The course takes a broad view of curatorial practice and the programme includes consideration of activities in the private domain of the domestic interior, and in virtual reality, as well as commercial treatments, such as shop window display.


The course is offered in both full and part-time modes. It is normally one year, (3 trimesters) in duration in full time mode or 6 trimesters in part-time mode. 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. Completion of the first 2 modules on the course leads 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.


Research Methodologies - Part one introduces generic research methodologies with part two considering subject specific material, analysis and evaluation techniques.

The Role of the Curator - 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, gender issues, ‘interventions’, gallery learning, the ‘post-museum’ and creative curating.

Collections and Collecting - This element of the course considers private activities in the domestic interior, as well as public collections and their management. It covers material culture, the urge to collect, the collection as shrine, oral history and its methods, object studies, research in the archiving and management of historical collections, with the collection at the Holburne Museum in Bath providing an important case study.

Cultures of Display - The module looks at public and private modes of display. As well as considering a range of museum and gallery practices, it includes studies in domestic display, commercial display and digital display.

Master’s Project - The Master’s Project is capable of accommodating 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.


The MA adopts a ‘practice-led’ approach; while some sessions are delivered by university academics at the Corsham Court Centre, others are delivered by our collaborators and relate to particular case studies or collections. There are field trips to museums and galleries in the Bath/Bristol area and opportunities to work alongside museum and gallery professionals on selected in-house activities. ‘Real life’ projects can be pursued in response to assessment assignments, especially in relation to the final ‘Master’s Project’ double module.


• 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.


Typical career destinations include:
• Curatorial work in museums and galleries
• Freelance curatorship
• Galleries/Arts administration
• Public Art
• Critical writing, such as exhibition reviews and catalogue essays

Visit the MA Curatorial Practice page on the Bath Spa University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Nicol Phillips

I chose this course as it had lots of practical curating opportunities and useful links with contemporary organisations such as the Arnolfini and Spike Island in Bristol. I especially liked the field trips we undertook to art museums and art centres to speak with their curators, as this provided a really interesting and valuable insight into how different curators operate within varying institutions. I also found my tutor, Jo Dahn, very supportive and well informed on traditional, but also contemporary practices. In our regular tutorials Jo was always keen to push my ideas and thought processes, which enabled my practice to continually evolve. I particularly liked the campuses at the University; Sion Hill is vibrant and inspiring and Corsham Court is beautiful, and the bowling alley is a great potential exhibition space.

This course will hopefully broaden my career opportunities. It has given me more confidence and focus in my curatorial practice, which in turn has become more specialised. For anyone considering this course I would recommend finding work experience in a relevant institution alongside your studies. This can provide an outlet for the practical application of theoretical/academic knowledge, and also potentially challenge learned concepts. While I was completing my Master’s Project I undertook a paid internship at Spike Island.


Entry Requirements

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.

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