Curatorial Practice

Find out more

Send me updates

Simply enter your details to receive information from Bath Spa University.
Your Information

The information you provide may be used by Bath Spa University to contact you about the University, courses and events which may be of interest to you. Please note your information will not be shared with other organisations apart from those acting as agents on behalf of Bath Spa University. Bath Spa University complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Bath Spa University’s Privacy Policy.

If you have any queries relating to Bath Spa University’s data protection practices please contact our Data Protection Officer: data-protection@bathspa.ac.uk

How to Apply

Studying current theory and history, build your personal curatorial skills and thinking.

  • Taught by curators, working with a rich group of diverse partner organisations in the sector.
  • Combines contemporary practice with theory in a flexible approach.
  • Highlights the roles of audiences, collections and new contexts.

"With the academic understanding and support I received, I feel equipped with theoretical knowledge and confidence in practice to embark on a curatorial future."
– Jessica Mathews (Graduated 2014)

Why study Curatorial Practice?

We focus on curating as a contemporary practice, bringing together history, theory and practice. We ask what is it that makes the role of the curator distinct, and how do we understand the essentials of curating, when it has become such a buzzword.

The course embraces contemporary curating in historic and collection-based settings as well as contemporary venues, digital, ‘pop-up’ and site specific contexts. It is delivered by experts in the field and working curators.

Course structure

The course covers a wide range of curatorial approaches, from management of historical collections to creative curating of cutting edge contemporary art, craft and design. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds; we challenge you to develop your interests, while understanding what you share with others across our discipline.

Engagement and understanding audiences are central to curatorial practice. You’ll develop experience in ways of sharing and presenting ideas throughout the course.

You’ll study either in two modules per trimester (one year full-time) or one per trimester (two years part-time).

Modules

  • Research Methodologies
    Introduces generic research methodologies and the ways subject specific material, analysis and evaluation techniques can be a vehicle for personal study. This is shared with other Masters programmes in the School of Art and Design, and so gives an opportunity to share ideas with artists, designers and curators from across disciplines.

  • The Role of the Curator
    Considers the changing role of the curator, the 'politics' of curating and real-world issues through first hand contact with working curators in our region and beyond. It addresses developments in critical theory and their impact on curatorial practices such as representing communities, ethnicities, gender issues, 'interventions', gallery learning, the 'post-museum' and curating in the public realm.
  • Collections and Collecting
    Considers the nature of collecting and the influence of collecting on curatorial practice. We assess the way collections act as a 'ground' for new work by artists, makers and in specialist creative project work , as well as traditional interpretation. You can study private collectors, the transition of 'private' to 'public', and the process of defining objects as 'collectible'. It covers material culture, collecting the digital, oral history and its methods, research in archiving and management of historical and contemporary collections.
  • Reaching Audiences
    The module allows you to present or study a live project to a real audience. You’ll study current discourse around engagement, participation and learning, and link this to exploring how curatorial practices reach audiences.
  • Master's Project
    The Master's Project can be either text or practice based. It accommodates a variety of approaches for assessment, that can include the traditional written dissertation, the study of historical or archival case studies, curating an exhibition or project in a venue, or forms of digital production, the construction of a museum or gallery specific web site. Many long studies come from the student’s own practice, and can be used to broaden or reflect upon work-place or voluntary experience.

Course assessment

Project based work can be developed and assessed as part of the course. Real life projects can be pursued in response to assessment assignments, especially in relation to the final 'Master's Project' double module.

We assess:

  • Your ability to deal with complex issues in the area of curatorial practice history, theory and context, effectively employing skill in analysis and synthesis as necessary.
  • Your ability to independently plan and implement research activities in the subject fields of curatorial practice, demonstrating professionalism, self-direction and originality.
  • Your ability to effectively propose and curate exhibitions, drawing on research and understanding.
  • Your ability to initiate and contribute to debate and discussion in relation to curatorial practice.
  • Your capacity to advance knowledge, learning and skills in the subject fields of curatorial practice.

Study in current working galleries, museums and venues

You’ll benefit from opportunities to visit, study and work through well-established relationships with a range of museums, galleries and contemporary art organisations of national and international significance.

We work with colleagues in the wide range of organisations in the city of Bath itself, in nearby cities such as Bristol and Cardiff, and in the major institutions beyond. This ensures you can explore a unique range of organisational contexts in which collecting and curating are sited.

Our links include:

  • the Holburne Museum;
  • a wide range of artist-run venues and civic museums in Bath;
  • Arnolfini and Spike Island;
  • Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery;
  • Hauser & Wirth Somerset;
  • Salisbury Arts Centre; and
  • National Museum Wales' sites in Cardiff.

Volunteer and internship placement opportunities

We encourage you to work or volunteer, giving you flexibility to find an area related to the course that suits you. We’ll advise you on the current range of internships and volunteer roles on offer in organisations across the region, as well as using our professional networks to put you in touch with the right people and organisations.

Recent projects have seen students work in pop-up venues and social contexts, the Venice Biennale, charity auctions, national open submission shows, and touring exhibitions.

Teaching methods

You’ll be taught in seminars, complemented with field visits to key venues facilitated by lead curators. We adopt a practice-led approach; while some sessions are delivered by our academics, others are delivered by our collaborators and relate to particular case studies or collections.

You’ll frequently link your study to internships, volunteering and project work.

Academic staff and visiting tutors

Ben Parry is your course leader. 

Professor Michael Tooby (course tutor) is a senior curator and former museum director with extensive teaching experience. Mike’s full profile can be viewed here.

Michele Whiting (course tutor) is an artist-curator with a doctorate in art theory and practice focusing on ‘place’.

Recent visiting tutors have included: Judy Adam; Peter Randall Page; Sarah Shalgosky; Julian Stair; Chris Stephens. In addition to the major partner organisations involved in the course, individual curator-led study visits have included the Ken Stradling Collection, Sir John Soane Museum and the British Museum.

MA Curatorial Practice students also join research seminars and visiting lectures within other postgraduate forums in the School and University.

Application method

Application forms are available online and should be completed and returned to us either electronically or through the post. If you have any queries please contact the admissions department:

Telephone: (01225) 875624.

International students should visit our international pages for more information about our entry requirements, fees and scholarships, and student support.

Course enquiries

Please contact Ben Parry, Course Leader.

Entry requirements

Admission is normally based on a good undergraduate degree in an appropriate discipline together with an interview. Applicants with a good honours degree in a related discipline and/or with relevant work experience will also be considered.

Overseas applicants will be assessed on the basis of their qualifications and statement included in the application form.

To help applicants – especially those from overseas – to decide if this course is appropriate for them, it is advisable to contact the Course Leader prior to application.

Career opportunities

Careers

Recent graduates have found work in:

  • Curatorial work in museums and galleries;
  • Galleries/arts administration;
  • Self-employed freelance curatorial work and consultancy;
  • Publishing and media work;
  • Education, gallery and museum learning and teaching;
  • General project management outside the visual arts and museums;
  • Critical writing; and
  • Academic study and teaching.

What students say...

Enrolling part-time on the MA Curatorial Practice at Bath Spa University has offered me a number of valuable reference points, from which I feel equipped with theoretical knowledge and confidence to embark on a curatorial future. In particular modules on 'Collecting & Collections' and 'The Role of the Curator' animated my enthusiasm for exhibitions practice both within and outside of museum contexts. I found much of the museological theory provided an intriguing starting point from which to expand my own dialogues, which have largely drawn on local contexts for my practice: that of The National Museum of Wales, its collections and their ever-evolving role, the artist-curator exchange, and the politics of the 'frame'. My final MA long-study has similarly evolved from these positions, driving me to interrogate the curatorial act and my own reasons for pursuing this field. In this final module I have greatly benefitted from the academic understanding and support of my supervisor.

Jessica Mathews, 2013 

In my long study I studied the theory and practice of the display of historic and contemporary material that grew from my experiences as a volunteer at a Museum…  in addition to providing a valuable framework in terms of historic and current curatorial discourse, the individual modules offer flexibility to explore and develop your own particular area of curatorial interest or passion.

Sally Jones, 2013