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Course content

Durham University's unique MA in Museum and Artefact Studies will provide you with the high quality training relevant to a career in museums, the cultural heritage sector, and in the academic world.

In particular, it is intended to equip you with a sound knowledge and critical understanding of current professional principles, good practice and contemporary debates relating to museum and artefact studies.

It aims to help you develop a variety of skills:

  • Professional skills, relevant to the care, management and exhibition of collections in museums
  • Analytical skills, relevant to the study of a wide range of materials and artefacts, from different periods and cultures, and from a variety of disciplinary perspectives
  • Research skills, relevant to studies of museums and artefacts, including an awareness of current theoretical issues
  • Communication skills - oral, written and visual - relevant to work in the museum profession and to academic research.

It also aims to encourage students to take personal responsibility for their own learning, team-work and professional conduct.

Course Structure

Two distinct routes can be followed through the MA in Museum and Artefact Studies. These comprise different combinations of modules.

Route 1

The first route is intended for students who firmly intend to pursue a career in museums and galleries. It comprises six compulsory taught modules:

  • Approaches to Museum and Artefact Studies
  • Museum Principles and Practice
  • Artefact Studies
  • Care of Collections
  • Museum Communication
  • Research Paper.

Route 2

The second route through the MA provides you with a different choice of modules. It is intended for students with a strong interest in artefact studies, who may wish to pursue a career in the cultural heritage sector or undertake further postgraduate research in museum or artefact studies after completing the MA course, but who also wish to keep their options open. It comprises four compulsory modules (one of which is a dissertation) and a choice of a fifth module:

  • Approaches to Museum and Artefact Studies
  • Museum Principles and Practice
  • Artefact Studies
  • Dissertation.

And either

  • Museum Communication


  • Care of Collections


  • A module from the MA in Archaeology (e.g. Prehistory; Roman Archaeology; Medieval Archaeology; Post-Medieval Archaeology; or the Archaeology of Egypt, the Near East and India (when available).

Course Learning and Teaching

The programme is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, tutorials and practical classes. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate in the Museums sector. Tutorials, seminars and workshops then provide opportunities for you to discuss and debate particular issues or areas, based on the knowledge that you have gained through your lectures and through independent study outside the programmes formal contact hours. Finally, practical classes allow you to gain direct experience of practical and interpretative skills in Museum and Artefact Studies through placements and curating an exhibition and/or developing an educational programme for the University Museums.

The balance of these types of activities changes over the course of the programme, as you develop your knowledge and ability as independent learners , giving you the opportunity to engage in research, professional practice, and developing and demonstrating research skills in a particular area of the subject. The programme aims to develop these key attributes in its students thereby preparing them for work or further study once they have completed the programme.

In Terms 1 and 2 you will typically attend 3-4 hours a week of lectures, up to 4 hours of tutorials or seminars, in addition to 2 workshops and 2-3 hours of practical sessions working with artefacts or museum environment-related matters or fieldtrips over the term. You will have a 20-day Museum placement at Easter in a museum or archive. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and broaden your subject knowledge. Professional speakers are brought in to engage the students with issues within the professional body.

In Term 3 the balance shifts from learning the basic skills required, to applying them within a real-life museum environment in the module Museum Communications where students work together on a specific project(s) with an opening date in May, June or July. Typically, you could be spending the equivalent of a working week as you complete the work for your projects, under supervision.

The move towards greater emphasis on independent research and research continues in Term 3, where the use of research skills acquired earlier in the programme are developed through the Dissertation research project or the Research Paper. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff with whom they will typically have between 3 and 5 one-to-one supervisory meetings, you will undertake a detailed study of a particular area resulting in a significant piece of independent research. The Dissertation is regarded as a preparation for further academic work while the exhibition and Research Paper route is designed for a more professional environment.

Throughout the programme, all students also have access to an academic adviser who will provide them with academic support and guidance. Typically a student will meet their adviser two to three times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet with students on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one hour research seminars which postgraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend as well as Friends of the Oriental Museum events.

Career Opportunities

Many of our postgraduates move into an academic career, either teaching or by taking up post-doctoral research positions in universities. Others join museums or national and regional heritage organisations. Some work in professional archaeology, in national or local planning departments, while others elect to use their analytical and presentation skills to gain positions in industry, commerce and government.

Visit the Museum and Artefact Studies - MA page on the Durham University website for more details!




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