BA Art History, Heritage and Museum Studies

Overview

Who decides what statues are in our public spaces? How do museums and galleries decide what to collect and display? How can we save heritage that is under threat from war or natural disasters? What are the ethical problems in preserving and exhibiting objects from other cultures?

BA Art History, Heritage and Museums Studies offers a multidisciplinary foundation in the histories and theories of art history, heritage studies and museum studies. You will acquire a broad foundation in the history of visual culture, learning about the most celebrated forms of art and architecture and discovering what has been overlooked or marginalised. This degree will also introduce you to the critical study of heritage, including ethical and legal debates, and questions around how heritage is preserved, communicated, displayed, including issues of spectatorship and community engagement.

You will study topics including:

  • History of the museum
  • Curatorial ethics
  • Heritage management
  • Modern and Contemporary Art
  • Politics of Museums and Heritage
  • The role of new technologies and new media in heritage and museums

To study on our course, you don’t need an A-Level in Art or Art History. In fact, we believe that the best students of visual culture are those who bring fresh eyes and new perspectives to their objects of enquiry.

One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014). You will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year, a rarity in the UK Art History courses.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university.

Placement year

When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and the placements team.

If you complete a year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.

Our expert staff

Our core staff consists of a dynamic group of art historians and curators. While our research interests span a range of cultures and media, from the early modern to the present, core specialties include exhibition design, modern and contemporary art, public engagement and activism.

Here are a few examples of recent or current projects by staff members:

Dr Gavin Grindon, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Palestine and the exhibition Disobedient Objects at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best-attended shows in the museum’s history.

Dr Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco, , Lecturer in Heritage and Digital Humanities, has started a new line of research that explores the role that 3D technologies have in community and heritage recovery following natural catastrophes. As part of this, she has just co-directed a documentary that explores community resilience and sense of place in post-1980 earthquake in Irpinia, South Italy.

Dr Matt Lodder, Senior Lecturer in Art History, recently curated the traveling exhibition British Tattoo Art Revealed and Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed and is currently co-curating the exhibition Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings, which opens next year in the U.S.

Dr Lisa Blackmore, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Interdisciplinary Studies, currently convenes entre—ríos, an international network of artists, researchers and community representatives across Latin America who collaborate on virtual and in-country projects that explore sustainability challenges facing bodies of water. She has curated exhibitions on art and the environment with the ESCALA collection at Art Exchange, the on-campus gallery.

Dr Michael Tymkiw, Senior Lecturer in Art History, is the author of the 2018 book Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism and several other research projects concerning the politics of spectatorship in modern and contemporary art and visual culture.

Specialist facilities

At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums and heritage sites in the nearby town of Colchester (‘Britain’s First City’); on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums, galleries, and heritage sites at your fingertips;

  • Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience, engage in object-based learning, and learn digital skills, a cornerstone of our approach to heritage and museums.
  • We have close links with many of cultural sites and institutions in Colchester, including the iconic Firstsite galleryFirstsite gallery, which support hands-on activities and your practical learning.
  • Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is one of the most comprehensive in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection.
  • Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions and talks by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
  • Our University Special Collections include many objects and archives of contested heritage spanning hundreds of years

Your future

The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and our graduates can leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

The sectors with jobs best suited for students with a BA in Art History, Heritage, and Museum Studies include heritage institutions, museums, galleries and auction houses. Within these sectors, you can pursue a career in heritage, cultural policy, curation, museum education, programming, events and marketing. Our degree also equips you with foundational skills to run your own gallery, to work as a PR agent, or to work in the wider arts and cultural industries, in design, fashion, publishing or events management.

To help our students acquire the particular skills they need to gain employment in the heritage and museum sector, we offer numerous modules dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of heritage and museums.

We also work with the University’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements and voluntary opportunities.


Why we’re great.
  • We house a collection of over 750 pieces of art from Latin America, in ESCALA, and over 100 works of British art, so you can study art ‘in the flesh’ on campus
  • Our course allows you to combine your interests in art history, museum studies and heritage studies whilst discovering how they are interlinked
  • Our structured programme of study trips at home and abroad takes you far afield and explores local settings

Structure

Course structure

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


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