AH40480 Curating & Collections

Academic Year 2022/2023

This module is an advanced introduction to the theory and practice of curating and collections within art institutions, and involving the participation of a diverse range of guest lecturers and contributors. The aims of this module are twofold: (1) to explore the evolving role of the ‘curator’ and his/her relationship to museums and galleries, and examine debates concerning the production of art historical knowledge through practices of collecting and display; (2) to gain practical knowledge of and exposure to the working life of curators and museum/arts professionals, encompassing historical and contemporary art settings, and bridging public and private institutions, biennials, art fairs and the art market.We will begin with an introduction to core concepts and the critical vocabulary of museum, gallery, and curatorial studies, focusing on the museum as a social institution and the curator as custodian and interpreter of visual art. Classes will include seminar-style discussions of influential texts and thinkers in the field, and feature guest speakers sharing their expertise from across the academic, museum, and gallery sector. We will also make numerous field trips to local museums, galleries, and other arts organisations, and meet with curators and other arts professionals, grounding theoretical museum studies debates in the realities of practice. Other sessions will introduce students to collections management principles; interpretative approaches and exhibition design; and career pathways in curation. Students will also learn practical skills in conceptualizing exhibitions; crafting proposals; working with artists; object interpretation and critical writing. If practicable, an all-day or overnight field trip will be arranged in Ireland / Northern Ireland to take an immersive look at another city’s cultural infrastructure and museum/gallery scene.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will be able to:• Demonstrate an understanding of the theory and practice of curating, and be conversant in the critical vocabulary of museum and curatorial studies• Discuss the social, political, and cultural functions and influences of museums and galleries• Analyse the impact of forms of display, exhibition, and collection/conservation practices • Critically assess museum and gallery exhibitions from the perspective of both the curator and the visitor, and how they work to produce knowledge• Understand the various pathways and professional responsbilities of contemporary curators, including collections management, conservation, and education/interpretation• Gain experience of practical skills in conceptualising exhibitions, developing interpretations and writing object labels, and presentation skills.

Indicative Module Content:

Course topics may include:
- The evolving role of the curator
- Art and the academy
- Art and the nation
- Curating art historical collections
- Curating contemporary art
- Curating education: audiences, engagement, outreach
- 'Undoing' museums: dissent, decolonisation, and alternative narratives
- Artwriting and criticism
- Art fairs & biennales

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Seminar (or Webinar)


Field Trip/External Visits


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Weekly sessions will include a combination of site visits to major museums and galleries, guest speakers, and seminar discussions (led by pairs of students each week). There is a heavy emphasis on blended theoretical and practical learning: we will be analysing scholarly texts in curating/collections and becoming conversant with significant debates in the field; and gaining from the practical/professional experience communicated by experts on-site in the galleries and museums we will visit. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Continuous Assessment: Attendance and participation in class discussions Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Reflective Journal Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Presentation: Presentation Unspecified n/a Graded No


Project: Curatorial Project Unspecified n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

The two primary assessments for this module are (1) a reflective class journal (responding to weekly visits, and weekly reading) and (2) a curatorial project in the form of an exhibition proposal. The reflective journal will span the content of the entire module: four entries are expected. Full details and the grading rubric are indicated in the syllabus. For the curatorial project, a group clinic will be held in advance to workshop ideas. This exercise will prompt students to develop a specific and original theme or proposition; situate the exhibition’s contribution to art history or contemporary art; make judicious object choices; demonstrate research and critical analysis skills; and demonstrate an awareness of a hosting venue’s needs and audiences. Students will make a preliminary oral presentation on their concept to a panel which includes their instructor, the MA Director, and a curatorial professional who will be invited to offer feedback and critique. Following this feedback on their oral presentation, students will have the opportunity to fine-tune the written exhibition proposal before final submission.

Name Role
Ms Sheena Barrett Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Carla Briggs Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Sean Leatherbury Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Assoc Professor Conor Lucey Lecturer / Co-Lecturer