Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Uncovering the art of curating, the new module in History of Art

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

History of art module

Curatorial Practice is a new module offered by the History of Art department designed to introduce students to the world of curatorship.

Over the course of twelve weeks, students explore both the theoretical and practical issues involved in curating displays and exhibitions of historic and contemporary art. Covering subjects as varied as how to finance galleries, craft displays and design layout, to lighting, label writing and how to optimise the visitor experience.

Taught at Brookes by Art Historians Elizabeth Darling and Marika Leino, with Joanna Walker (Curator of Brookes' Glass Tank Gallery). The module has input from guest speakers, which include the respected freelance curator Judith Winter and the team from Modern Art Oxford. The module is designed to build on the more historically-focused course 'Museums and Society’, which the students take in their first year.

As well as lectures and workshops, the students participated in curator-led visits to the Ashmolean Museum and Christchurch Picture Gallery. The module culminated in students working in groups to conceive and design their own ’virtual exhibitions'. A day of poster presentations was held at which students introduced their ideas to a panel of staff and to their fellow students.

A rich variety of proposals was heard including 'Art after Hours', which proposed a series of installations at the Botanical Gardens in Oxford for viewing after work. A display of feminist art at the Ashmolean ‘A Feminist Renaissance’ and ‘Something from Nothing’ a display which looked at art made from recycled materials.

The course leaders Dr Elizabeth Darling and Dr Marika Leino said:

“It was lovely to see our students gain confidence through working on projects which were more grounded in real-life practice than is usual in Art History modules. Group work brought out the best in students, and resulted in some truly innovative and original ideas, conveyed through excellent posters and presentations. It has been an inspirational module to lead, and we hope to grow and develop this curatorial strand into our third year modules in the next academic year".

Imogen Blears, second year History of Art undergraduate said:
“I really enjoyed the practical element of the module and not many courses offer this. Working within a group, all with collective interests in what you’re doing was really good. The module definitely opened my eyes to something I would like to go into in the future. The guest speakers on the module were outstanding; they were unique to the module and had a really good understanding of how to teach the practice of curatorship.”