Q&As with students

What do past and present alumni have to say about choosing a course?
Jenny Gleadell

01032018-courses-jennyJenny Gleadell studied an MA in art history and curating at the University of Birmingham.

What do you do now?

I work as an assistant producer of exhibitions at The Wilson gallery in Cheltenham.

What made you choose the course?

The mix of practical and academic subject matter. I had been working in the sector for a while and saw this course as an opportunity to further my career. It included a placement module, a collaborative curatorial project with the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, theory modules on curatorial practice and art history theory, and a dissertation.

What was the most useful aspect?

My placement at the New Art Gallery Walsall, which encouraged me to think critically about curatorial practice and engagement, and led me to look at contemporary artists’ interventions in collections for my dissertation.

Is it helping you in your job now?

Definitely. The collaborative and curatorial experience I gained prepared me well for my current role. The course also made me develop confidence in my academic skills. This helps a lot in the varied role of curator or producer in an art gallery or museum.

Rhiannon Litterick

01032018-courses-rhiannonRhiannon Litterick is studying for an MA in socially engaged practice in museums and galleries at the University of Leicester.

What undergraduate degree did you do?

I read classics at Robinson College, Cambridge, followed by a PGCE at Hughes Hall, Cambridge.

What is your current job?

I’m schools and families officer at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, and also run the youth panel there.

What made you choose a museum studies course?

I was a classroom teacher but always knew I wanted to work in museums, specifically in education. I decided to do a course to give me an insight into the sector as well as to show my commitment when applying for jobs. I chose socially engaged practice because I thought it would feed into the community engagement aspect of my role.

What’s been your best experience so far?

Exploring the Raw Truths programme of events at the Museum of Homelessness in London for a case study assignment.

Are digital skills an important part of the course?

To a moderate extent. Studying via distance learning has involved using the FutureLearn platform, along with participating in group seminars via web links and using OneDrive to work on group assignments.

What advice would you give someone choosing a course for this year?

If you are unsure whether the course is for you, ask the department you are interested in to put you in touch with a current student for an insider’s perspective on it.

Nina Davies

01032018-courses-ninaNina Davies is a part-time student on the MA in museum studies at UCL.

What undergraduate degree did you do?

A BSc in biology.

What is your current job?

Senior curator-botanist, Africa and Madagascar, at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London.

What made you choose a museum studies course?

I was an assistant curator for five years and saw this as an opportunity to gain more experience across the broader themes of museums.

What is the most useful aspect of the course?

Making contacts with museum professionals across the sector.

What’s been your best experience?

Two stand out. First, researching the history of wax models made for teaching purposes in the 19th century for the collections curatorship module. Second, a volunteer placement at Blythe House with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s theatre and performance department.

How do you hope it will further your career?

The skills and experience gained from the MA helped me get my current job.

What advice would you give someone choosing a course?

Look at jobs in the sector and what skills they are seeking, then pick your MA accordingly.

Mark Carnall

01032018-courses-markMark Carnall studied for an MA in museum studies at UCL.

What do you do now?

I’m the collections manager (life collections) at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

I’m responsible for the zoological specimens at the museum and my role includes collections and curatorial responsibilities.

Did you always want to work in a museum?

I always wanted to work in natural sciences but an excellent future careers module on my undergraduate palaeobiology and evolution course exposed me to the idea of working in museums.

What was the most interesting or useful aspect of the MA?

The most valuable bit was the overview of the museum sector it gave, in subjects such as history, theory, management, collections care, digital and public engagement.

Is it helping you in your role now?

Yes. In the museum sector it is always possible to end up being institutionalised and the knowledge and skills I gained from the course help me to keep the bigger picture in mind.

How did it further your career?

I ended up working for the museums at UCL and teaching on the museum studies course, as well as accumulating a huge amount of experience at national, university and other kinds of institutions. A lot of the people I met and taught are now part of my wider network across the sector.

Suzy Quinn

01032018-courses-suzySuzy Quinn is a part-time student on the MA in museum and gallery studies at Kingston University.

What is the best aspect of the course?

Lectures at Kingston are balanced with museum and gallery visits, often to partner institutions, and these form a large part of the timetable. Being able to learn from working museum professionals and experience real-world museum processes is the most useful aspect of my MA.

What’s been the best experience so far?

Demonstrating to a group of museum professionals at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London, how mixed-reality technology can make the absent object present when they cannot be viewed physically. A 3D-printed sculpture of my head was exhibited and then removed from a plinth. It was replaced by a hologram of the sculpture that could be viewed through a Microsoft HoloLens.

The demonstration was given at the Museum of Futures as part of an exhibition devised by MA students to explore the potential of a museum exhibition in 2030.

How do you hope it will further your career?

My career to date has been as a professional actor. Studying, together with volunteer experience in the V&A and as a conservation assistant at the National Trust property Polesden Lacey in Surrey, has given me the confidence to think that a career change is possible, as is the option for further academic study.

Róisín Mulcahy

01032018-courses-roisinRóisín Mulcahy studied for an MA in museum studies at University College Cork.

What do you do now?

I am a registrar for the National Trust at its Swindon headquarters.

Have you always wanted to work in a museum?

No, it was more of a natural process. After completing my BA in history of art in 2014 I found myself working in a historic house with an art collection. I quickly developed a passion for collections care and management, and set out to learn as much as I could.

What made you choose the course?

It had a broad scope in terms of the taught modules, plus I felt the two placements would provide a valuable opportunity to gain practical experience.

What was the most interesting part of the MA?

The placements were of huge benefit to my understanding of how museums operate and how individual they can be with regard to their attitudes and focus, as well as how they achieve their objectives.

Is it helping you in your current role?

I use aspects of the programme daily, especially in the context of collections care. Overall, the experience I gained during the UCC course has made me more adaptable to new environments.

Links and downloads

Courses guide and listings 2018 (pdf)