Why I chose to study Collections and Curating Practices - MScR
After graduating in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh I was not sure what I wanted to do next. During the summer after my undergraduate graduation, I volunteered for the Royal Anthropological Society 2018 conference on “Art, Materiality and Representation” at the British Museum. Museum and collections studies had never occurred to me before as a research interest, but after attending that conference I was hooked. I was so full of questions that I looked up potential master’s degrees on the subject. I chose the MScR in Collections and Curating Practices at ECA because it simultaneously offered me a chance to learn the fundamentals of curatorial debates directly from field professionals while giving me the freedom to explore my research interests, all with the support of ECA’s wonderful cohort of peers and academics.
Tell us about your time at ECA
The Collections and Curating Practices programme offered me a chance to engage in insightful debates with curatorial professionals from both the museum and the contemporary art fields. The lectures were diverse and exciting, allowing me to engage with a variety of topics which - even if not directly related to my research focus - always enriched my understanding of the curatorial world. We also visited different museums and art galleries around Edinburgh, getting a chance to talk to the curators and conservators of some of Edinburgh's most prestigious cultural institutions. I loved that we were a small cohort of students, everyone with different backgrounds and areas of expertise, which made up for some fascinating class discussions.
Alongside the development of my dissertation research, a consistent part of the programme was the completion of a curatorial group project with a partner institution, in my case St Cecilia’s Hall. In response to the institution’s brief which asked us to explore ways of integrating digital technologies in the museum’s collections, a fellow student and I designed, curated and delivered the installation of the Music Box: a new multimedia display around the mysterious “violin without sides” (MIMEd 5851), part of the University Musical Instruments Collection. This project gave me hands-on experience on all the phases involved in the development of a curatorial project - from the first phases of coming up with ideas to its completion - including experience in commissioning and working with artists, project and team management, web designing, 3D printing, event planning and interpretative material writing.
What I most appreciated about this programme, however, was that the course organisers were always ready to go the extra mile to help me make the most of the University resources and to support me in my research interests. This gave me a chance to tailor my studies for my dissertation project, which focused on the ethics and problems of displaying human remains in museum collections, specialising in the Skull Collection held at the Anatomical Museum.
My experiences since graduating
Even after graduation, I continued to receive support and guidance from my Master’s Programme Director, Kirsten Lloyd. Since graduating I have successfully applied for a fully-funded PhD at the University of Edinburgh which will build on my Master’s dissertation on the Skull Collection held at the University of Edinburgh Anatomical Museum. By building on the curatorial experience and research conducted during my Master’s, I will be uncovering and narrating a nuanced postcolonial history of this fascinating and yet controversial collection, while designing its very first digital archive. Hopefully, my project will facilitate further research for other academics and descendant communities, while contributing to curatorial debates on the colonial legacy of museum collections.
My advice to new and current students
Do not be afraid to take advantage of all the resources and networking opportunities across different departments at ECA. To be surrounded by so many brilliant and talented people was one of the things I most enjoyed during my time at ECA. The coming years might be a little different, due to the current global and individual challenges that the pandemic is putting us through, but now more than ever it is good to find the support of other passionate people like you, no matter how different your interests and expertise might be.