Q&As: students and recent graduates

Guillaume Fabius, assistant curator, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Which course did you do?

A master’s in curating the art museum at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. I graduated in October 2019.

What attracted you to it?

So that I could deepen my curatorial knowledge and broaden my horizons, so as not to be grounded in a single country’s point of view. The master’s offered compelling opportunities such as creating an exhibition, writing original museology essays and meeting curators and artists.

Did you volunteer while studying?

I was able to intern at Tate Britain.

How are you applying what you have learned in your role?

I have a wide range of responsibilities and have staged two temporary exhibitions at the Musée d’Orsay, which involved researching, managing loans, scenography and submitting exhibition texts. I learnt all of these things through internships and the expert insight, practical opportunities and industry experience that I benefited from at the Courtauld.

Thanushiga Rajah, activity manager, Museum of Science and Technology (Teknisk), Oslo

Which course did you do?

I studied the University of Leicester’s modules in exploring socially engaged practice and engaging audiences: education, learning and participation by distance learning. The course addresses contemporary social issues in museums and galleries.

Why did you choose it?

It allowed me to do separate four-month modules as a short course, seemed interesting and suited my line of work as Teknisk’s activity manager.

Which elements did you especially enjoy, or feel were most useful?

All of it, to be honest. It also deepened my understanding of museums as institutions and how power is distributed within them, as well as the power we possess in relation to audiences. It gave me a kick-start to engage in activities with social impact.

How did you balance your work and studies?

It was quite intense. I lead a team developing activities for family visitors. I do a lot of the programming and a fair bit of coordinating within the museum, so my workload is pretty heavy. However, I had some paid study days and used all my free time as a student. It helps to operate within an understanding workplace.

Was it always your ambition to work in the museum world?

Not always but most of my work experience has been in the museum field. It’s hard to leave something so unique, in a sense. I have a lot of freedom to delve into things I find interesting. My main ambition in life is to have a lot of independence and to seek knowledge.

Are you planning further study?

I plan to do more modules and a dissertation to achieve the MSc in socially engaged practice. In the future, I’d like to focus more on socially engaged projects.

What advice would you give to someone choosing a course now?

Just do it. I can’t wait for my next course. I would also recommend that you look closely at the assignments from the start, and note down a couple of your ideas.

Amy Walker, galleries, events and marketing assistant, Leeds University Library’s galleries team

Was it your ambition to work in a museum?

I had no idea about the kind of jobs that were available in museums when I was young. Even when I was doing a BA in history of art, as far as I was concerned there were curators and that was that. It wasn’t until I started volunteering in a stately home that I realised the possibilities.

Which course did you do?

I studied the full-time art gallery and museum studies master’s at the University of Leeds in 2016-17.

 

What attracted you to it?

The work placement was a big draw. At the time, I was struggling to find long-term volunteer work. It is a prestigious university and there are many excellent cultural institutions on your doorstep. The opportunity to undertake a module in the second term and present my research at a symposium was also important.

Did you volunteer while studying?

I worked for a council-run service that loaned artefacts to schools, as a cataloguer. I did work placements at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, where I was exhibitions intern.

How are you applying what you have learned?

I began to develop my marketing skills in a project for my master’s and I now spend a lot of time promoting the galleries across a variety of platforms. During my work placement, I assisted with exhibition changeover and had to handle objects, which is another of my responsibilities in my current position.

What advice would you give to someone choosing a course?

Consider what experience you lack and whether the course will help to fill those gaps. Meet the academics and try to get a sense for what people in the department are researching. If the research interests differ greatly from your own, consider looking elsewhere.

Joshua Seymour, studying part-time for an MSc in conservation practice, Cardiff University

Why did you choose this course?

This two-year course serves as an introduction to conservation, with hands-on experience with historical objects, and the staff had good reputations within the sector. I knew the eight-week placement would be worthwhile in terms of job prospects.

Are you working while studying?

I have part-time jobs as a private tutor and at the students’ union bar. I got two grants to help fund my studies.

Are you volunteering?

I have volunteered at Firing Line: Cardiff Castle Museum of the Welsh Soldier for more than a year. I produced a report on why medals tarnish in a display case and provided recommendations to the curatorial team, then submitted the report as part of my course. I may also develop a conservation talk for the museum.

Has it helped you on the course?

It has allowed me to implement the skills I have been taught in a practical environment. The museum has given me extra-curricular opportunities, such as attending an antique firearms course at the National Army Museum.

What’s the biggest challenge?

Finding the balance between work and study. I also know the importance of needing a social and personal life.

What are your career plans?

I want to be a museum conservator. I am particularly interested in military collections from the two world wars.

Katherine Midgley, collections assistant, Scottish Football Museum, and studying part-time

Which course are you doing?

I’m doing a part-time MScR in collections and curating practices at the University of Edinburgh, which I will finish in August.

What attracted you to it and which elements do you find most useful?

I was attracted by the way it prepares you for both further academic work or for a career in museum or gallery work. I found the idea of a new course with a relatively small cohort exciting.

Have you worked on a live project with a partner museum?

I carried out a guided research placement on a performance festival at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. It was an internship but with a set of academic/professional objectives and real responsibilities.

Are you working while studying?

I had just been promoted from a front-of-house position to collections assistant at the Scottish Football Museum when I started the course, on the proviso that I studied for a museums qualification and undertook practical training. I have learned practical skills such as object handling/labelling, collections management and exhibition design, and developed my research skills.

What’s next?

I will soon take up the post of learning and outreach officer for Govanhill Baths Community Trust. I wouldn’t have got the job without studying for the MScR course, particularly the community engagement module and the guided research placement.

What advice would you give to someone choosing a course?

Meet the people running the course: if they seem excited by the prospect of you studying there, it’s a good sign. Also, try to pick a course that gives you the option to complete a practical placement, preferably one that has concrete outcomes at the end of it.

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