BA Curating

Overview

Are you interested in becoming an exhibition curator or working in other areas of gallery management? Our BA Curating can provide you with the intellectual and practical skills you need to realise your career ambitions, combining classroom-based learning with hands-on experience in museums and galleries.

Within the classroom, you gain an overview of major developments in art history – something essential for any budding curator. You will also learn about the history and theory of exhibition design, with a particular emphasis on how curatorial choices shape our experiences while viewing artworks and the other objects on display in museums and galleries.

The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Europe’s largest collection of Latin American art, will offer you a place to experiment with installing artworks. Besides getting your feet wet with the more tactical aspects of installing art, these experiences will open your eyes to how curatorial decisions transform the kinds of stories that artworks tell when displayed alongside others.

Frequent, staff-led visits to London museums and galleries will also expose you to the latest developments in curating, and you will be strongly encouraged to conduct a placement in order to gain exposure to the inner workings of a museum, auction house or gallery.

To ensure you are prepared to meet the challenges facing curators in the 21st century, opportunities to cultivate digital skills will be available throughout the course. For example, for your final project, you will curate an online exhibition, for which you will produce a virtual walk-through of the exhibition space and develop digitally-accessible interpretative material for all objects on display.

Essex is the ideal choice for a BA in curating. We are ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014). We are one of the few leading art history programmes that offers an undergraduate course specialising in curating and you will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year—another rarity in 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 or employed on a placement 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

Our expert staff

Our staff consists of a dynamic group of art historians. 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, Lecturer in Art History and co-director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best attended shows in the museum’s history. He has also widely published on activist art in leading journals such as Art History.
  • Dr Matt Lodder, Lecturer in Art History with an emphasis on modern and contemporary visual culture, is co-curating the exhibition Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings, which opens next year in the U.S.
  • Dr Michael Tymkiw, co-director of the Centre for Curatorial Studies, has a book under contract entitled Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism. He has also just launched an interdisciplinary research project that focuses on using digital technologies to expand disability access in museums—a project that involves collaborations with several museums in Colchester and London including firstsite and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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 in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.

Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:

  • Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource 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
  • Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
  • Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is home to staff who specialise in the history of exhibition design and curate high profile exhibitions

Your future

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

The sectors with jobs best suited for students with a BA in curating include museums, galleries and auction houses. Within these sectors, you can pursue a career in curation, museum education, programming, or sales 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 fields of fashion, publishing or events management.

To help our students acquire the particular skills they need to gain employment in the museum and gallery sector – the single-most important area in which our students will seek jobs – we offer numerous modules dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries. Additionally, we give you the chance to think creatively and proactively about life after university through our curatorial employability module.

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 are distinct – study the social and political implications of art and go beyond its historic institutions.
  • Our structured programme of study trips at home and abroad takes you far afield and explores local settings
  • We house over 750 piece of art from Latin America, known as ESCALA.

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.

Teaching

  • Close examination of texts written by artists, critics, art historians and philosophers
  • Subsidised gallery visits to work ‘in situ’ for each course
  • Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
  • Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes

Assessment

  • Assessment methods include coursework, for example essays, analysis of source material, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, oral presentations
  • Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year

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