Postgraduate Course

MA Heritage and Museum Studies

MA Heritage and Museum Studies


The details
Heritage and Museum Studies
October 2021
1 year
Colchester Campus

Heritage is the physical and intangible cultural materials we choose to preserve and value. But heritage is also a matter of heated debate. How do we manage, preserve, and communicate our heritage today? In what ways is the past remembered or forgotten, exploited and renegotiated in the present? What are the differences between tangible and intangible, cultural and natural, physical and digital heritage?

Our interdisciplinary MA Heritage and Museum Studies offers specialist, practically-grounded and academic training exploring these questions and more. Our intensive degree emphasises the real-world relevance of debates surrounding cultural patrimony, and the ways in which it is presented and consumed.

The MA is made up of core and optional modules, where you will develop knowledge of the field and practical skills, all while pursing your own specialist interests in the field of heritage.

You will study topics including:

  • Heritage and human rights
  • Digital heritage and advanced digital literacy skills
  • Sustainability and ecological heritage
  • Curatorial practice and practical curatorial skills
  • Hands-on heritage skills and experience
  • Public engagement
  • Museum experience

One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014), mainstream universities, THE 2014) and our Interdisciplinary Studies Centre boasts a wide range of innovative undergraduate and postgraduate courses grounded in an interdisciplinary ethos that fosters new ways of thinking and learning. Essex is also ranked Gold in the UK's Teaching Excellence Framework, for consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes.

Why we're great.
  • Gain skills and knowledge of heritage policy, management, conservation, education, engagement and enterprise.
  • Gain hands-on experience with artworks and other objects and archives in our Essex Collection of Art from Latin American (ESCALA) and our Special Collections.
  • Gain experience working with galleries (e.g. Firstsite Gallery), museums (Royal Academy of Arts, V&A Museums), and heritage facilities and institutions (e.g. CNR Italy, English Heritage, ICCROM, digital heritage companies such as ThinkSee3D, Marconi Archive).
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

Our core staff consists of a dynamic group of world-leading heritage specialists and art historians; Dr Paola di Giuseppantonio di Franco, Dr Gavin Grindon, Dr Michael Tymkiw, Dr Lisa Blackmore and Dr Matt Lodder. Their research interests span a range of cultures and media, from the early modern to the present, with core specialisms including digital heritage, exhibition making, alternative and political heritages, environmental heritage, public engagement, activism, artistic, social and political history. Other staff who will be teaching are scholars engaging with heritage, public engagement and museums from multiple disciplines.

Specialist facilities

At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums and heritage sites in the nearby towns of Colchester ('Britain's First City'), on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world's best museums, galleries, and heritage sites at your fingertips.

Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience, engage in object-based learning, and learn digital skills, a cornerstone of our approach to heritage and museums.

We have close links with many cultural sites and institutions in Colchester, which support hands-on activities and your practical learning.

Supported by our Centre for Curatorial Studies, you will benefit from our partnerships with major arts and cultural organisations to find out what it means to be work in this challenging sector.

Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection.

Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks and workshops by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students.

Our university Special Collections include many objects and archives of contested heritage spanning hundreds of years, resources that can be the focus of MA student projects.

Your future

On completing this MA you will be well prepared to either undertake further postgraduate study in heritage, or to enter the workplace in the heritage industry, museums and related fields.

Graduates from our programmes are ideally prepared for roles in museums and galleries, in education (in schools, universities, and cultural institutions), as conservators and specialist art lawyers (with additional training and qualifications), as auctioneers, dealers and antiques specialists, the digital and creative media industries, in charities, in publishing, as PR agents, in fashion, or to run their own galleries.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies, including:

  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Sotheby's New York
  • Momart Ltd
  • John Lewis

We also offer research supervision for PhD and MPhil for those who want to continue with research.

We also work with the University's Careers Service to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2.2 Degree or equivalent in any discipline. Your Degree must contain at least three modules relating to visual culture.

Visual Culture modules include, but are not limited to: Aesthetics, Archaeology, Architecture, Art History, Curatorial/Museum Studies, Design Studies, Digital Imaging, Fashion, Fine Art, Film Studies, Film and Literature, Graphic Design, Advertising, Landscape Design, History, Media Studies, Photography.

if you do not hold a degree which includes relevant modules, then we can still consider you. You should be able to show that you have relevant professional experience. If you do not have a relevant degree or relevant experience, then we may ask you to provide a sample of written work which demonstrates your interest in this field.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

The example structure below is representative of this course if taken full-time. If you choose to study part-time, the modules will be split across 2 years.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently planned for 2021 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.

Interdisciplinary MA Dissertation

Each student chooses an area of interdisciplinary research in which to write a dissertation of 12,000 words. Topics have to be agreed by an appropriate supervisor.

View Interdisciplinary MA Dissertation on our Module Directory

Collecting Art From Latin America (optional)

Get valuable real-life experience of the unique holdings at Essex Collection of Art from Latin America’s (ESCALA). As well as discussing and analysing artworks from the collection, take on the exciting challenge of proposing a new acquisition for ESCALA. Whilst the task is hypothetical, if the committee decides to pursue the acquisition, you could be credited for your contribution.

View Collecting Art From Latin America (optional) on our Module Directory

Heritage and Human Rights (optional)

This module will explore how conflicts over 'heritage' rights are, today more than ever, influencing critical debates over the definition of world, national, and local heritage, as well as universal, community, and individual rights. It will also examine the impact that tensions between communities and universal versus local values have on the management of heritage, and how these tensions might be resolved to allow sustainable growth. We will ask: What is heritage? Who defines it? Who should control its management and preservation? How is the notion of 'heritage' used to unite or otherwise divide communities? What are some of the consequences of the ways different groups appropriate and utilise heritage? Is there a universal right to free access, expression, and preservation of heritage, and if so, how is it expressed? What are the impacts of globalisation on heritage issues?

View Heritage and Human Rights (optional) on our Module Directory

Our Voices, Our Pasts, Our Histories: Oral History in Practice (optional)
War and Memory: Remembering, Commemorating, and Contesting the Past (optional)

The memories surrounding war and conflict are defining features of cultures and societies around the world. Wars are remembered in a variety of ways: through commemoration, in in individual and family stories, within popular culture, and within political narratives. These memories often tell us more about the present (or rather the time in which they are remembered) than about the wars and conflicts themselves. In fact, analysing how war is remembered today is often one of the best ways to understand how all types of history can be deployed to serve different purposes in the present. Memories of war are often highly politicised and controversial, becoming bedrocks of national myths. To challenge these memories, and these myths, is often to challenge the fundamental ideas that national cultures are based on. This module looks at the construction, circulation and contestation of war memory in a variety of national contexts, and at different points in the past. It focuses on three broad themes: commemoration, popular culture, and the politics of remembering the past. We will discuss topics including the symbolism of the ‘poppy’ in commemorating the First World War, the depiction of the Second World War in film, the memory of the Vietnam War in the United States, and the different ways societies have remembered the bombing of civilians throughout the twentieth century.

View War and Memory: Remembering, Commemorating, and Contesting the Past (optional) on our Module Directory

Museum Activism: Art, Politics, Cultural Work and Policy (optional)

What is the relationship between activist art and art galleries? Is the museum really a public sphere, or even a progressive cultural space? How is this space shaped by policy, the market, protest? How much power do curators have to shape culture? Is everyone with an Instagram account a curator now? Each week we will study the changing role of museums and galleries in the twentieth century at the macro- and micro-level: by placing critical theories of the ‘public sphere’ alongside key historical cultural policy documents and case studies of both exhibitions and particular display rhetorics used by exhibitions, from taxidermy to projection-mapping. We will also take a broad view on curatorial work and its social context. We will ask: What is curatorial labour?; how has it changed?; did it exist before or outside of the specific workplace of the museum?; and how has it shaped the museum and society? What is the role and responsibility of a curator today? We will explore how these changing spaces and forms of work, inside and outside the museum, are able to direct, shape or contribute to political and social issues.

View Museum Activism: Art, Politics, Cultural Work and Policy (optional) on our Module Directory

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


EU students commencing their course in the 2021-22 academic year will be liable for the International fee.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we’ll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply’ information.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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