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Katherine Midgley
As a part-time student, Katherine chose to study at ECA for the unique focus on both practical skills and academic research. While studying, as part of the guided research placement, Katherine was able to secure experience working at the Fruitmarket Gallery and for the British Council/Arab British Centre in a project entitled Making Marks in a series of real-life projects which supplemented her academic research.

Since graduating, Katherine was able to secure employment in her dream field as a Heritage Learning Programme Coordinator for a community trust in Glasgow, which came about as a direct result of the experience gathered through the guided research placement and the British Council project. The skills she acquired as ECA have set her up to confidently pursue this career and are invaluable in her current role.

Why I choose to study Collections and Curating Practices - MScR

I was initially looking for a Museum Studies course within commuting distance of my home in Glasgow. I chose ECA over other nearby courses because the focus of the course appealed to me. Many Museum Studies courses focus very narrowly on the immediate, practical skills needed for working in a museum, such as accessioning, object handling, using databases, etc. They also tend to ignore galleries and focus solely on traditional museums. The ECA course appealed to me because the focus was split between practical skills and academic rigour, with a strong focus on individual research. The guided research placement was another key aspect for me, as it involved working on a real project within an institution, rather than simply creating a mock-up. It was possible to choose between a museum- or gallery-based placement, and the option to choose courses from across the university meant that my options felt a lot more open. Finally, the fact this was a new course meant that the people involved were all really excited about it, and keen for new students to join. The small group size meant we all received a large amount of individual attention, as well as getting to know our cohort very well.

"The ECA course appealed to me because the focus was split between practical skills and academic rigour, with a strong focus on individual research."

Katherine Midgley

Collections and Curating Practices - MScR alumna

My time at ECA

I studied part-time, and ensured I took up as many opportunities as possible during my time at ECA! I took the core courses: Collections, Practices & Methods and the Guided Research Placement, which was based at the Fruitmarket Gallery. The placement involved curating a portion of the gallery’s Open Out festival in 2019, which was incredibly exciting. As a group of four students we chose the artists, liaised between them and the gallery, decided on the programme, created promotional materials, and assisted with installing the work. All of this was incredibly valuable ‘live’ experience and has stood me in very good stead since! After the placement we were invited to apply for an opportunity with the British Council/Arab British Centre called Making Marks, and I was lucky enough to be the person chosen from the Fruitmarket Gallery. The project involved a trip to Kuwait, followed by the chance to create a funded project back in the UK. I put on a series of workshops for women and non-binary folk, and was assisted by both the British Council and the Fruitmarket Gallery. Again, this was incredibly valuable first-hand experience which it would have been very difficult to get otherwise.

The other core course was a brilliant introduction to all things museum practice, including object handling, cataloguing, and emergency planning, as well as more specialised subjects such as working with human remains and the repatriation of objects. At every turn we were introduced to experts in the field, and were given a very good overview of careers in the museum sector.

In my second year I took two optional courses: one in Contemporary Art Theory with Angela Dimitrakaki, and the other in Museum Education, which was led by Moray House. Both of these courses were excellent and (in different ways) contributed greatly to the development of my thinking about socially engaged practice. I then starting working on my dissertation, which (due to Covid-19) I finished in the summer of 2021. My supervisor, Angela Dimitrakaki, is one of the foremost scholars in the field of contemporary art theory, and really helped to push me to deliver original research. Throughout the course as a whole I was encouraged to put forward original ideas, not simply to regurgitate set texts. I therefore feel that the course was a perfect combination of practical skills and academic rigour, which is exactly what I was looking for.

My experiences since graduating

I took an extension due to Covid-19, so leaving was a bit of an anti-climax as I hadn’t actually been to Edinburgh for 18 months! However, the course directly led to me securing a job in the field I wanted to work in, which meant that I have been securely employed throughout Covid which was a huge relief. I now work as a Heritage Learning Programme Coordinator for a community trust in Glasgow, which came about as a direct result of the experience gathered through the guided research placement and the British Council project. I oversee creating a learning programme from scratch, including school’s workshops, festivals, talks, and guided tours. The experience I gained from ECA in terms of event planning has been absolutely invaluable, as have other practical aspects such as dealing with copyright law and working with marginalised communities. I would also say that my dissertation research has stood me in good stead in terms of working out what I would like my specialism to be. This may feed into future career plans, or perhaps into a PhD. I’m not sure yet but feel like I have lots of options! It’s a real relief to read job advertisements and feel that I am completely qualified to take on those roles.

My advice to new and current students

Try everything! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and try to chat to as many people as possible. It’s a great time to meet new folk and open yourself up to other possibilities. I feel like the entire course was a huge adventure in many ways. Just enjoy the experience! And take advantage of all the contacts you make: don’t be afraid to email people with suggestions for projects etc. You never know what might come of it. 

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