Postgraduate Study

MA Curating the Art Museum

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Studying for the MA Curating the Art Museum is an excellent entry point for a career in museums and galleries.

The course puts the physical object at the heart of curatorial training whilst placing specialist knowledge firmly within the context of the modern museum. The course offers a unique balance of seminars, hands-on experience and internship placements, focusing on the expanding remit of the art curator in the twenty-first century.

The programme provides unrivalled access to exceptional resources, drawing on the Courtauld's own academic faculty, conservation department, gallery and collection, as well as making the most of its close links with other London museums. The course also includes a field trip to Europe and an exhibition project in the third term.

The MA is designed to:

  • Extend graduates' art historical interests, expertise and scholarship
  • Develop the area of curatorship and active engagement with collections and exhibitions
  • Prepare graduates to contribute to the future of the art museum profession.

Following completion of this unique programme, you will be ideally placed to contribute to the future of the art museum profession. This will include:

  • An understanding of the historical, theoretical and political context of the art museum
  • Awareness on contemporary issues relating to the museum and curatorial practice
  • Consideration of the physical history of works of art, including the issues of handling, conservation and care of collections
  • experience in varying modes of communication, both written and spoken, directed at a scholarly or wider audience

On graduation you will join a long list of Courtauld Alumni who have gone on to fulfill roles in major galleries and museums all over the world, including London, New York, Madrid, Berlin and Los Angeles.

course introduction

course resources

career prospects

Video Courtesy of Postgraduatesearch

Key Facts

  • Full time
  • 12 students
  • 1 year
Language skills:
  • English
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The MA Programme is a full-time, 12-month course.

Teaching is concentrated in three 11 week terms but work elements of the course may continue at other times, and the dissertation is to be written during the summer months. The Programme is structured as a series of interweaving strands.

The course is led by Martin Caiger-Smith who has had a successful career in curating exhibitions.

Detailed information about the aims and objectives of the course can be found in the programme specification below:

MA Curating the Art Museum Programme Specification

MA Curating - Term 1

Conservation, Presentation and Access: Ethics and Practice

A series of four seminars on contemporary approaches to the ethics and practice of conservation, and current issues and debates, led by a practising conservator and object-based art historian. Sessions focus on paintings as physical objects, methodology and meanings; the display and dissemination of technical images in museums and galleries, considering the relationship between image and object; preservation and presentation decision making; and the balance between conservation and access.

History and Theory of Museums

This strand considers the history of art museums in Britain and elsewhere, from the seventeenth century to the twentieth. While the museum dedicated exclusively to fine art is a relatively recent phenomenon, museums have been a significant cultural phenomenon since the sixteenth century. An understanding of the contemporary art museum can be illuminated by a study of how such institutions have functioned in the past, and how they differ from or resemble their contemporary descendants. A number of visits to museums will be made. Students are encouraged to engage with the extensive literature on the subject and are required to write an essay in this field.

Virtual Display

In 2012/13, the Virtual Display exercise will be conducted in two separate groups of six students each, at Tate Britain and the National Gallery . The exercise will be set and led by Curators from each museum, in consultation with the Head of the MA Programme: this will be a 'virtual' installation, hang or re-hang of a given space in the museum, which takes into account the context of the space, the remit and current programme of displays and exhibitions of the museum, and the practical needs of display and of the works themselves, including approaches to interpretation.In advance of the exercise the Head of Progamme lead a preparatory session with students (at the Courtauld) to establish the principles of the exercise, and basic concepts and methodologies of museums’ collections display. The exercise will conclude, at the fourth session, with a presentation by the student group to Gallery Curators and the Head of Programme.

MA Curating - Term 1-2

Contemporary Approaches to the Museum

These eight sessions aim to build on the Museum History sessions and to complement the more focused and practical sessions and exercises (Conservation; Virtual Display, Text and Interpretation) in the first two terms.The first four sessions (in Term 1) introduce in turn the roles and remit of the curator; the functions and architecture of the modern and contemporary art museum; the temporary exhibition; and issues of museum and exhibition display, particularly in relation to modern and contemporary art; all are set in (recent) historical context and in relation to each other.The final four sessions centre on site visits or presentations by invited professionals and artists. They introduce new voices, and new themes: exhibition design and its implications for the curator; the relation of acquisitions and display in the modern art museum; the relation of the private and public spheres, the auction house and the commercial gallery; and the active relationship between artists and museums, with a look to the future.


Each student will, following discussion with the Head of Programme in the first four weeks of term, embark on an internship with a London museum/gallery. The internship runs alongside the other taught sessions, collaborative exercises and written assignments that comprise the Programme, and forms an integral and obligatory part of the twelve-month programme. It is designed to complement the theoretical, methodological and practical instruction received on the programme, and to assist in providing students with the skills and expertise required for a curatorial or curatorial-related career in museums. It should serve as an opportunity for the student to develop professional attitudes and skills, and to apply research and academic knowledge and expertise to the museum situation.

The internship will extend over a period from mid-November to mid/late April, part-time and amounting to a total of around 25 full working days. Those days worked are to be agreed directly between the intern and the participating institution, and must fit within the schedule for the course as a whole. It is intended that internships take place on Mondays, Thursdays or Fridays. Unless specifically agreed otherwise, full days are to be worked.

MA Curating - Term 2

Exhibition project

This project is a group exercise. Its purpose, parameters and location will be introduced to students at the end of Term 1, and developed in a series of sessions led by the Head of Programme and/or Gallery curators throughout Term 2; at the end of Term 2 a formal presentation will be made and a project approved, for further development and realisation through Term 3; the exhibition will be held in June/July 2013. Further details are to be confirmed.

Text and Interpretation

This course contains two strands which will run concurrently (on alternate weeks).Strand 1, taught by Katie Scott, examines different modes of art writing. Through reading and discussion of selected examples, students will analyse some of the functions of writing about art, and analyse a variety of theoretical and rhetorical approaches, comparing and contrasting the different kinds of texts which museums and galleries call upon and produce in publishing their collections and staging exhibitions.Strand 2, taught by Sarah Hyde, looks at the ways in which such texts are used to produce interpretative material for museum and gallery visitors. The course examines the range of interpretative strategies currently used in art museums and looks critically at their aims and the effectiveness with which they provide for the broad spectrum of museum visitors.The course consists of ten two-hour sessions, taught alternately, although both tutors will attend all sessions. Classes will be in a range of formats; each will entail the active participation of each student, for example through class discussion, or through writing and editing exercises undertaken during the class or in visits to exhibitions, which lead to the building of a dossier and a presentation, which is informally assessed, in the final session.

MA Curating - Term 3


Preparation for dissertations (10,000 words max.) begins this term, and titles are agreed in June. Writing continues over the summer months, with submission in September.

Exhibition project

This project is further developed and realised through Term 3, when it becomes the dominant element in the Programme. Invited specialists will inform the progress of the project, and further sessions will explore general issues relating to exhibition management and curating. The exhibition will be formally assessed.

Leadership session

Informal session with an invited speaker from a museum or gallery; exploring issues of museum management and policy

Study Trip Abroad

Four days in Europe; destination and schedule to be confirmed; to take place early in Term 3.

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The MA Curating the Art Museum is assessed on:

  • Two 4000 word essays (one each in terms 1 and 2)
  • Written dossier - based on critique of the interpretation strategy of a current exhibition as part of the text and interpretation sessions – presented in group presentations and informally assessed (Term 2)
  • Internship assessment (during terms 1 & 2) Internships are assessed pass/fail based on mentor's report following self-reflective report written by the student
  • Exhibition project (Term 3 - formal assessment)
  • A dissertation of maximum 10,000 words (Completed in the summer months, submitted in September)

A central element of this MA is a part-time internship, running over six months, in a prominent London museum or gallery. It is designed to expose students to the theoretical and the practical approaches in curating which underpins the entire course.In addition to the formal assessments above, students will also engage in the planning and delivery of public debates involving museum professionals, and undertake collaborative projects oriented towards the display of visual art.


Programme Leader

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Entry requirements

Please select your Country of Study

We accept overseas qualifications equivalent to a 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).

If you hold a qualification from outside of the UK, please feel free to contact the Academic Registry; however, please be aware that our staff are unable to confirm whether you will be invited to interview, as candidates are judged on the strength of their applications as a whole.

Other Requirements

All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency.

We accept the following English language proficiency tests if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with an overall bandwidth of 7.0 or above, with no less than 6.5 in Reading and Writing.
  • Trinity College London – ISEIII

We will accept the following tests if taken on or before 5th April 2015, and if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme, up until 5th November 2015.

  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) with a minimum grade of B
  • Pearson Test for English (PTE) Academic with a score of 75 or above
  • CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency) with minimum grade of C

Please note that we will not accept institutional test results.

You may be exempt from providing proof of proficiency if either of the following applies to you:

  • You are a national of a majority English speaking country*
  • You have an academic qualification (not a professional or vocational qualification), which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree and the qualification is from an education provider in a majority English speaking country, including the UK and Republic of Ireland but not Canada.

*Majority English-speaking countries are defined by the Home Office as:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America

If you are unable to book a test at a centre in advance of the application deadline, you may submit your application without an English proficiency result and it will be passed on for consideration. You should send your test result when it becomes available to you.

Foreign language requirements
A small number of the special options require students to be able to study texts in their original language. Where this is a requirement, the special options list the languages needed.

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Fees 2015/16

Home/EU fee: £8,220
Overseas fee: £19,450

Fees are subject to change each academic year. You can find out what qualifies as home, EU and overseas fees here.



Study at the Courtauld
Applications open between 15/10/2014 and 07/01/2015


Applications for the 2015/6 MA in Curating the Art Museum programme are now closed. The deadline for applications was 7 January 2015. 




If you are selected for an interviewed, it would be held in mid-February. If you do not live in London, Skype interviews can be arranged.

Please do not contact to check on the status of your application. We will contact you when there is a change in the status on your application.

You will be contacted before the end of March with a final decision about your application. 

Unfortunately, due to the large volume of applications we receive, we are unable to provide feedback for unsuccessful applications.


Scholarship Applications will be completed separately to the Online Admissions Application, will be sent via hardcopy in the post, and must be received within a week of submitting the Online Application. More information can be found here.