Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module MELA45230: Critical Curatorship

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA45230: Critical Curatorship

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.
Tied to R9T107


  • This module is selective. All candidates will be interviewed to ensure suitability.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To enhance students' intellectual, professional, practical and transferable skills ï‚·
  • To provide students with meaningful work experience in the field ï‚·
  • To enhance students' employability potential


  • The module involves a series of workshops with academics and practitioners, and an extended work placement.
  • The workshops will offer critical engagement with key theoretical texts in the field of museum studies and critical curatorship, drawing on work by Hooper-Greenhill, Obrist, MacDonald, Weibel and others.
  • They will also foster understanding of the museum and gallery environment and of how to interrogate and handle a range of museum objects.
  • The placement element of the module will provide valuable work experience in a museum or gallery.
  • The Department has developed close links with a number of institutions including the Durham Heritage Collection, Durham Art Gallery, MIMA, Dorman Museum, Allenheads Contemporary Arts, BALTIC, the Hatton Gallery and Globe gallery who have agreed, in principle, to take students on this programme. Further partnerships will be sought with institutions including the National Railway Museum, the National Media Museum as well as a number of institutions in continental Europe.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Ability to demonstrate critical understanding of the relationship between curatorship theory and practice ï‚·
  • Acquitision of advanced knowledge of the work of specific arts professionals ï‚·
  • Ability to interact with museum and gallery professionals with the appropriate levels of professional conduct and behaviour ï‚·
  • Acquisition of knowledge of the environment that shapes professional practice in the field ï‚·
  • Understanding the importance of Health and Safety regulations, insurance, security, conservation, inclusion, advertising/publicity and public relations within the museums and galleries sector
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will be able to: ï‚·
  • Think critically about the culture of display ï‚·
  • Negotiate and assess a variety of theoretical and practical approaches to curatorship ï‚·
  • Appropriately handle visual material, as objects and digitally
Key Skills:
  • By the end of the module, students will be able to: ï‚·
  • Observe and demonstraterofessional conduct and behaviour ï‚·
  • Critically analyse a wide range of source materials ï‚·
  • Use IT skills competently in order to support research, learning and workplace-based activities ï‚·
  • Demonstrate effective verbal, written and digital communication ï‚·
  • Develop analytical and problem-solving responses

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be taught intensively either in Term I or in Term II on a 'short-fat 'basis.
  • The module is taught through a series of workshops in which academic, practical and professional skills are developed. Learning and teaching will involve exposition, group work activities, student presentations, peer review and tutorials. One-to-one tutorials will focus on the student work experience and assessment. The Work Placement is supervised and students will be visited on site (where practical), but students will be required to work independently for the most part. ï‚·
  • Tutors will guide students towards their placement and the placements will be agreed between the host institution, the student and the programme co-ordinator. Placements may involve archival, curatorial, research and educational work, as well as arts administration experience. A short contract will be required for each Placement, and the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre has suggested that the Placement Agreement drawn up by the University will be adequate for our purposes. The University has identified best practice in relation to work placement modules and this will be followed. ï‚·
  • Summative assessment is by one five-thousand work reflective report, which will require students to engage critically with display practices in the institution in which they have carried out their placement, integrating theoretically-informed analysis with practical knowledge.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Placement 1 block 4 weeks 160
Workshops 3 tbc 2 hours 6
Tutorials 3 tbc 1 hour 3
Student Preparation and Background Reading 131
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Report Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Reflective Report 5000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

i) Tutorials and workshops provide opportunities for informal assessment and feedback on progress as the placement evolves. ii) Informal formative assessment will be offered by host-institution staff involved with the placement. iii) All students will submit a 6 minute podcast in Term 2. This will outline the context and challenges of their host institution, their role within it, skills required and theoretical underpinning. Feedback will be provided by peer review and also at a one-to-one tutorial.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University