AGMS alumni

Graduates of the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies discuss their experiences during and since completing the course.

Earlier alumni (graduated before 2013)

Ozge Altinkaya

Assistant Curator, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2005-6

I studied at the Art Gallery and Museum Studies Course in the 2005-06 academic year. The courses were quite challenging for me at the beginning since the teaching system is different than my own country. Of course taking a course in a foreign language was also uneasy. However, the welcoming attitude of the tutors and the democratic and friendly nature of the courses helped me to adapt to the course quickly. Especially the seminar groups enabled me to express myself confidently while developing my discussion and presentation skills. The diverse context of the theoretical parts of the Course widened my vision as well as knowledge on art galleries and museums in England. During my work placement, I took part in the curation of a fantastic exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery which introduced me the various practical aspects of exhibition making in a museum context. I also enjoyed the rich environment of Manchester in terms of museums and art galleries as well as its close location to some major cities such as Liverpool, Oxford with significant museums. Overall, the knowledge, experience and vision I gained from the Art Gallery and Museum Studies Course helped me to work in one of the leading museums of Turkey as an assistant curator.

Jane Brown

Gallery Manager, The Atkinson, Southport

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time 2010-2011

I chose to study Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester because it combined solid theoretical study with important practical learning and skills development. The course also benefits from attracting students from all over the world, with different backgrounds and ambitions. It was truly beneficial to exchange ideas and learn alongside such diverse classmates.

The first semester was as challenging as it was stimulating, introducing me to the theoretical world of museology. The ‘Introduction to Museum Studies’ module challenged my assumptions about the role of museums in society. The tutors were very supportive and encouraged us to think critically and to continually reflect on our learning and experiences. This style of teaching really helped me to develop the analytical skills which have been crucial to my career progression. The course was also very practical and in the second semester I chose to take the work placement module. I worked on a full collections review of the Social History collections at Gallery Oldham. The placement was transformational for me; I learned essential practical skills of professional museum work (conservation, documentations, collections management, and curating) and at the end of my placement was offered at temporary position.

The MA equipped me with the necessary skills and experience to quickly gain paid work in the sector and to develop my career. I am currently the Gallery Manager at The Atkinson in Southport where I manage our temporary exhibitions and education programmes. It is 5 years since I graduated from my MA and I still draw on the knowledge and contacts I gained on the course. 

Fran Burrows

Project Officer, Collections Development, Tate, London

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2008-9.

The Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA gave me an excellent understanding of the foundations of art galleries and museums. As part of the MA, I was able to take a course on Museum Policy and Practice, which raised my awareness of the issues surrounding deaccessioning and museum governance.

Manchester is an ideal location for studying an arts-related subject as there are many museums and galleries in close proximity to the university campus. As part of the course, I was fortunate to undertake a placement at the Whitworth Art Gallery in their wallpaper and textiles department. This placement gave me an excellent opportunity to work closely with their collection, as I was involved in documenting the wallpapers and repackaging each item. Gaining experience of collection management was a key benefit of this placement, and one that I have continued to develop in my current role.

Since starting at Tate in 2009, I have progressed from the role of Individual Giving Administrator, working with Patrons, Legacies and the Tate Fund, to my current position: Project Officer in the Collections Development team. I work closely with Tate’s Curators and our major donors to secure funding for new acquisitions for the Collection. I also work with the Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection each year, which involves working with guest curators to purchase art works at the Frieze Art Fair.

Jane Duffy

Senior Project Co-ordinator, National Museums Liverpool

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Part Time, 2002-2004

I chose to study on the AGMS masters course part-time, while working as a Project Assistant at World Museum Liverpool. The course offered a good mix of practice and theory, which really complemented the work I was doing. The Museum and its Contexts module helped equip me with a much deeper understanding of the role of the museum as not just a cultural institution, but a social and political one too. The Museums and their Visitors module is highly relevant, encouraging students to investigate the range of factors which affect visitor experience within the museum environment. The work experience placement was valuable in that, as someone already working in museums, it helped me to look afresh at the different services that museums provide. I worked on a new children's gallery at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, exploring the way that an art gallery attracts and communicates with new audiences. Support from tutors was good, with regular opportunities to discuss assignments. There was a good mix of students from different backgrounds, and I enjoyed meetings and discussions with a range of people on the AGMS and other MA courses, due to the cross-curricular nature of the subject.

Since graduating six years ago my career has progressed and I now work as Senior Project Co-ordinator for National Museums Liverpool. Based with the Project Co-ordination Team, I work with designers, curators, and education teams to develop new displays and galleries, and I am currently working on the new Museum of Liverpool on Liverpool's waterfront, due to open in 2011.

Sophie Fitzpatrick

Project Officer, Museum of English Rural Life, Reading

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2011-2012

I completed the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA in the academic year 2011-2012, immediately following my BA (Hons) in the History of Art also at the University of Manchester. A vibrant and cultural city, Manchester is an ideal environment to study for an arts degree.

With a long held ambition to work in a cultural setting, the MA not only seemed to be a logical step in my development but it also offered an excellent way of broadening my understanding of museums through work place experience and study as well as enhancing my future career prospects.

The course offered both a diverse and interesting range of both core and optional modules. There was also the option to undertake either a practice-based dissertation or a standard dissertation. The flexibility of study meant that I was able to pursue my own interests as well as gain a broader perspective of museum practice. As part of the course I undertook a work placement at the Whitworth Art Gallery, preparing the collection for the large scale 2012-2014 redevelopment. It was great to be involved in the preparation work for such a major cultural project and was overall a very positive and enjoyable experience.

Since graduating in December 2012, I have continued to be involved in volunteering opportunities in my local area and have now started my career as a Project Officer on an ACE funded project at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading. The skills and knowledge gained during my MA study are continuing to be useful to my new role both on a specific and broader scale.

Eve Haddow

Assistant Curator - Pacific Collections Review project, National Museums Scotland

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2007-2008

I completed the Art Gallery and Museum Studies course in 2008. Prior to starting the course I had studied Social Anthropology and gained practical experience with museum collections through volunteering. I found the course provided me with a solid grounding in the theory and history of museums and museology. It also offered me the chance to expand practical knowledge through a work placement which I completed at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. The course structure is effective in that the first semester offers an excellent introduction to key museological theory and approaches, leading into the second semester where I was able to choose courses that suited my specific interests. Students were encouraged by staff to explore the subject areas within museums that they were most passionate about. The staff provided constant support and advice whenever needed and delivered an engaging program of lectures and seminars.

I moved to Manchester for the purposes of the MA and fell in love with the city. It is a vibrant place to live and study with a busy arts and cultural scene.
Since leaving Manchester I have worked as a researcher for the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail and spent two years as Curatorial Assistant at the National Mining Museum Scotland. In April 2013 I left to take up a post working on an Esmée Fairbairn funded project to review Pacific collections in Scottish museums in which I’ve also been developing a subject specialism. I found the AGMS course provided me with the skills and knowledge needed to develop professionally and would recommend the course to anyone interested in working in museums and galleries.

Kristin Hussey

Collections Information Officer, The Science Museum, London

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2010-2011

I found the AGMS course to be stimulating, challenging, and a necessary foundation to my future career in the museum sector. Unlike many of my classmates, I did not have a background in art or history, but rather in politics and anthropology. The AGMS programme gave me the knowledge and experience I needed to change the course of my career. As an American, I found the learning style at the University of Manchester to be very different from what I was accustomed to in my previous studies. The level of independent work and originality the courses required was at first very challenging, but I found the tutors to be incredibly supportive. While this academic freedom originally seemed overwhelming, it gave my classmates and I an opportunity to focus on our individual areas of interest. I discovered that no two were the same!

As I began my MA, I was not entirely certain of what kind of work within the museum world I wanted to specialise in. Fortunately with the introduction of the Enhanced Work Placement programme, I was able to try my hand at collections management and documentation at the World Museum Liverpool. The skills I learned performing an audit of their Islamic ethnographic collections were vital in my appointment as a Collections Information Officer at the Science Museum in London. In my current position, I am able to continue my work in collections management as well as to nurture my interests in the collecting practices of Sir Henry Wellcome; the subject of my MA dissertation.

Shireen Ikramullah Khan

Research Officer, National Art Gallery, Islamabad, Pakistan

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2008-9

Studying the AGMS programme as an international student was both a rewarding and exciting experience. The first semester was both a challenging and exciting few months as getting adapted to a new system of education, and more research-based ways of learning unlike the system in Pakistan, was an enthralling undertaking. The tutors were highly supportive and provided me with the intellectual and scholarly resources that I needed for my academic development. In the first semester, museum studies was introduced with important museological and historical themes and theories, along with curating an exhibition that was displayed in the Mansfield Cooper Building. By the second semester, I was able to refine my subjects of interest by taking 'Objects and Exhibitions' and 'Gallery Learning and Interpretation' as my electives. This complemented my dissertation topic, research and writing as my dissertation analysis focussed on the educational and communicative nature of a museum in a developing country.

Having my placement at the Manchester Museum was also enlightening as I had to work as a visitor consultant in the Museum's Mediterranean Gallery. The Head of Human Cultures Brian Sitch whom I had to work under, and the rest of the museum staff was very supportive and friendly. Manchester itself is a fantastic city, providing me with a variety of cultural resources such as museums, art galleries and easy access to other cities in Northern England and other parts of the UK.
After the completion of my AGMS programme, I came back to Pakistan as being one of the very few individuals having done a Masters in Museum Studies. I am currently working as a Research Officer at the National Art Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan along with several other activities such as pursuing my own art practice in the field of painting, and writing for an art discourse magazine by the name of Nukta-Art. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in museums, art galleries or heritage sites especially at the prestigious University of Manchester!

Jennifer Kavanagh

Senior Curator of Contemporary History at Museum of London

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2006-7

Having completed my undergraduate studies in Geography at the University of Manchester in 2005, focussing particularly on cultural geography, I decided to stay at Manchester to complete the MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies. I have always had a passion for other cultures and their representation, and this course allowed me to develop this interest further, whilst also providing a vital qualification. The museum sector is incredibly competitive, so I decided to focus my module choices on vocational-based subjects. The first semester provided a comprehensive introduction to the practical and sociological aspects of museum and gallery work, and also introduced me to new concepts which are becoming increasingly significant to the sector. This included the widening use of technology, and as such led to me selecting Digital Heritage as one of my two second semester modules. Combining this detailed technical exploration of museum work with the Objects and Exhibitions module provided a broad insight into the behind-the-scenes issues which museum staff need to consider, including safe object handling, accessibility and widening participation. After completing my dissertation on special needs education in the museum context, I moved to London to take up the position of Education Office Supervisor at the Imperial War Museum, which I am thoroughly enjoying. This role involves managing the Education Office, and has provided me with the opportunity to assist my colleagues with both formal and informal education by using much of the knowledge I gained during the MA.

Henry McGhie

Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology, The Manchester Museum

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Part-time, 2003-2005

I studied on the AGMS MA programme part-time while also working full-time at The Manchester Museum. I was very fortunate in that my employer allowed me to have protected time (one day per week) to undertake the programme. The course was one of the most fulfilling and rewarding parts of my career and suited my interests- which incorporate science, the cultural history of natural history and communication of these subjects- perfectly. The course was built around critical thinking of established and innovative working practices, taught through a combination of taught lectures, readings and associated seminars. This range of activities provided for a range of different learning styles and reinforced the key points. The topics were often provocative and this generated a great deal of interesting discussion, especially as people on the course came from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. The programme encouraged me to continually reflect on my own working practices and this has helped me to develop a questioning approach to my work and to the museum field in general. The staff on the course were very helpful and I am grateful to them for their help with my personal and professional development. I really would recommend the course to anyone working in or with museums, galleries or other heritage-based fields and at any point in their career.

Catherine O'Donnell

Engagement and Events Officer, People's History Museum, Manchester

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2008-9.

Studying the AGMS programme in Manchester was both challenging and highly rewarding. The course is academically focussed, with modules in the first semester introducing key historical and museological themes and theories which form a solid groundwork for the more specialised modules of the second semester, which allowed me to develop my research and presentation skills. These were complemented by the practical group projects, which included curating a small exhibition that was displayed on campus, writing a funding application and tracing the biography of an object at Manchester Museum. The staff were highly supportive, especially throughout the research and writing of my essays and dissertation.

The city of Manchester itself is one of the most fantastic cultural resources available, and the tutors used this to their fullest advantage by tailoring fieldwork and assignments so they were specific to the museums and galleries of the city. Workshops and seminars were held at the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum and the trip to Glasgow and Edinburgh in semester one was definitely a highlight of the year!

The most beneficial aspect of the course was my work placement at the People's History Museum. I researched and developed Carried Away, a photographic exhibition taking a sideways look at protest through the last 100 years, illustrated by images of individuals being forcibly removed from the protests by the authorities. It was a real challenge working with a space that hadn't even been built yet, as the museum was undertaking a multi-million pound refurbishment. After I had completed my placement, I stayed on as a volunteer to finish the project and I am now working full time as the Museum Services Assistant and really enjoying starting my career at an exciting, newly-reopened museum. The best part is seeing the visitors enjoy an exhibition that I developed as part of my AGMS placement!

Emma Poulter

Talking Objects Programme Manager, The British Museum

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Part Time, 2002-2004

The Art Gallery and Museums Studies (AGMS) Masters course at Manchester University was ideal for me. It gave me the opportunity to widen my knowledge of the heritage sector and provided me with first-hand experience of working in a museum environment.

My degree was in archaeology and I came to the AGMS course knowing that I would be working with students from various different disciplines. The course provided a range of modules to suit all interests whilst also promoting a multidisciplinary approach. Doing the course in a city with such vibrant and exciting collections was definitely also a bonus. After I completed my MA I applied to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding to do a PhD looking at the histories of the objects in the West African collections at the Manchester Museum- why and how they travelled to Manchester. Luckily I got this funding and I am now in the final stages of writing up my thesis.

My experiences on the AGMS course and my PhD have provided me with an in-depth understanding of museums and has fired my passion to work with objects to inspire and to challenge. I am now looking forward now to putting these skills to use as a Museum Curator.

Erin Pruitt

Collections Assistant, at the South West Museum of the American Indian

Course: Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2007-8

As a former full-time international student of the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA programme (2007- 2008), the courses were challenging, informative, satisfying and very worthwhile. The tutors provided practical and theoretical perspectives, supportive answers, and the resources that I needed for my academic and career development. Part of being in the museum sector is having the ability to share your viewpoints in a clear and effective manner, and the seminar groups and projects provided me with the means to discuss my ideas in many diverse settings. With a full variety of modules to choose from, the programme allowed me to specialise, but still tap into several multidisciplinary approaches. My areas of concentration have always gravitated towards ethnicity reflected through material culture and working in anthropological collection-based research. I was able to refine my interests during the second semester by taking a specialised option course in Archaeology of Ethnicity that complemented my Museums and Material Culture module; all offering a balance of theoretical and practical museum fieldwork experience.

Living and studying in Manchester was the perfect location for me too. Not only did I quickly adapt to a new culture, I had the convenience of numerous museums, art galleries, cultural centres', easy accessibility to London, Liverpool, Oxford and further abroad. Likewise, having my work placement at the Manchester Museum, doing curatorial and collections management work in the Anthropology Department was very relevant and beneficial to my career. The Manchester Museum staff provided me with great support, practical knowledge, flexibility and a friendly environment.

After completing the AGMS programme I came back to the States with a much more enriched knowledge of being a part of the international museum community and having a lasting link to the UK. This programme prepared me not only career wise, but to also further my studies in academic research. My degree in AGMS helped me cement my position because of the specialised exposure I gained through my modules, AGMS Advisor encouragement and overall practical experience. Currently, I'm a Collections Assistant at the Southwest Museum of the American Indian; part of the Autry National Center, supervising and handling the archaeology and ethnographic collections for conservation. My experience in the AGMS programme has given me a platform to do everything I want to do in the museum field, and I have continued to put what I've learned to great use!

Cara Sutherland

Curator, Mental Health Museum

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full time 2011-2012.

I started my career as a museum professional after studying fine art and realising that while I wasn't a very good artist, I did have a natural ability to enthuse others about art and material culture. After working hard in various roles within the cultural sector for the next four years, I made the decision to leave the safety of my job and go back to study in Manchester on the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The course provided a supportive and nurturing environment where I could learn not just from my tutors but from my peers. The course structure encouraged me to explore theories and museological principles. It provided me with the opportunity to engage and participate in a practical work environment where I could forge career relationships. The course challenged my beliefs about the role of museums and has had a lasting impression on who I am as a museum professional and what I want to do with my career.

I believe that museums can change the world and in my current role as Curator at the Mental Health Museum (governed by the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) I am getting the opportunity to do just that. I work with communities, other museums and third sector organisations to develop the museum on the basis of consultation and true co-production. Every day I build on the knowledge I gained on the course, continue to reflect on my practice and think fondly on my time in Manchester.

Dr Claire Wintle

Lecturer, History of Art and Design University of Brighton

Course: MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, Full Time, 2003-4

My year as an MA student on the University of Manchester's Art Gallery and Museum Studies course was extremely positive. I found the staff to be approachable, enthusiastic, extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields, and supportive, both in terms of my academic study and professional career. The diverse modules on offer during my period of study served as a great introduction to museology as a discipline: I really enjoyed exploring a variety of theoretical perspectives on exhibition, appropriation and learning in the museum. Doing the course at Manchester, at the heart of the North West's outstanding cultural scene, meant that I was able to take full advantage of a work placement at National Museums Liverpool. The placement scheme was really useful in supplementing my academic understanding with practical experience, and happened to lead to my employment at National Museums Liverpool after graduation.
Recently, I completed a collaborative PhD, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and hosted by both Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and the University of Sussex. During that time I worked in Brighton's World Art department, researching and curating the Museum's collections from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India). Now I lecture in the History of Art and Museum Studies at Brighton University, with a particular interest in imperialism, material culture and decolonization. The practical and academic grounding that was fostered by the AGMS course in Manchester has been invaluable in this current role.