St Andrews is Scotland’s leading centre for postgraduate research and training in the heritage sector and the MGS Postgraduate Diploma/MLitt provides Scotland’s pre-eminent museum studies programme. The one-year Postgraduate Diploma is available as stand-alone vocational training or there is an option to present a dissertation on an approved topic for an MLitt degree. These programmes have attracted funding for students from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland and various English and Northern Irish Local Education Authorities as well as the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The Museum and Gallery Studies programmes prepare you for employment in museums, principally as curators. We ensure that the training is broad, covering all types of museums, galleries and other heritage facilities. The main focus of the training is curatorial work, but curators also need a proper understanding of the work of all their colleagues since, especially in small museums, the ‘curator’ may have to tackle a very wide range of duties. Hence, the principles of conservation, museum education, exhibition planning and design, and various management topics are also included. Two taught modules on the theory and practice of museums provide knowledge of museum systems and practices and understanding of issues relevant to today’s museums. These are complemented by project work, including individual museum tasks and the preparation, in a team, of a public exhibition, which enables you to develop relevant practical skills.
The extensive University Museum Collections at St Andrews are particularly suitable for curatorial training and give the programme a unique character. The Collections include over 100,000 museum items in a wide range of subject areas, from art to zoology, and these collections and the staff who look after them are actively involved in the Museum and Gallery Studies teaching programme. Close to the School of Art History is the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA), where most of the Museum and Galleries Studies teaching takes place. MUSA includes four display galleries on the ground floor, and on the first floor is a ‘Learning Loft’ for education and a Viewing Terrace. Students on the Museum and Gallery Studies Art History programme prepare an exhibition in the Gateway Galleries and the St Andrews Museum. Other facilities include extensive library holdings in museum studies, access to computers, and a dedicated work and study area with computers and other appropriate equipment.
St Andrews museum training benefits enormously from the willing participation of the Scottish museum profession. Museums Galleries Scotland and its member museums of all shapes and sizes generously provide visiting lecturers and host class visits and individual student placements. In return, St Andrews has developed several initiatives to extend its training beyond the University and into the museum community.
A part-time version of the Postgraduate Diploma and MLitt, taught through residential schools and work-based projects, is aimed in particular at people already working in museums. Participants are welcomed from Scotland, the rest of the UK and EU. The Museum and Gallery Studies teaching staff are experienced museum curators who continue to be involved directly in museum work.
Students take three compulsory 40-credit modules during the two semesters of coursework. The taught courses are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, practical sessions and visits to museums and galleries. A programme of project work, based on the University Collections or with local museums and galleries, complements the taught element. This incorporates problem-based learning and enables students to develop relevant practical skills and to experience the dynamics of teamwork. There are short taught sessions related to the exhibition element of the project work and regular formal meetings. There is also a series of research methods classes to help prepare for the dissertation element.
Assessment is by coursework. Students complete three assignments per module in a variety of formats including an essay, a documentation and database project, an object study, an exhibition or website review, a lesson plan and a management report. The dissertation module during the summer semester provides the opportunity to undertake an independent research project under the supervision of an academic member of staff.
A postgraduate degree in Art History, History of Photography or Museum and Gallery Studies provides an excellent foundation for a career in the art or museum world.
The Museum and Gallery Studies course provides a theoretical foundation combined with hands-on, practical and transferable experience. Recent graduates have gone on to work for a range of institutions, from the Scottish Light House Museum to the National Museums of Scotland, the Victoria and Albert Museum to the Detroit Institute of Arts, the McManus Galleries in Dundee to Zhejiang University Museum of Art & Archaeology, and auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull, and Bonham’s, among many others. Two year-long traineeships within University Collections are open uniquely to Museum and Gallery Studies graduates, as is the four to five month David Nicholls Curatorial Internship at the South Georgia Museum in Antarctica.
Recent postgraduates in Art History and History of Photography are employed in universities and archives, museums and galleries, auction houses, radio stations, publishing houses and magazines and are also working in journalism, teaching, and retail.