Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Rachel Sayers

MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies, 2015

Why did you decide to study this particular course at Leeds?
I am from Ireland and originally studied Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Ulster. After graduating I volunteered and worked in museums in Ireland, London and Essex. My background is primarily based in the curatorial area of a museum with a concentration on Irish female history and fashion history. I had been attracted to the course at Leeds for several reasons. The MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Leeds is one of the highest ranking courses in the UK and Ireland, the city of Leeds is very accessible as well as the friendliness of the people in Leeds attracted me to the course.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?
I love museums and anyone I know will know this as I talk non-stop about museums! I feel that what is inside a museum, be it the collections or the staff, needs to be shared with the wider public and passionate people such as myself should be there to share their passion. Museums are a showcase of the country they represent and the history of that country and it is the museums duty to preserve the history of that country for future museum goers. I feel that this is where people, such as myself and my course mates, will be ideal; as we are the museum professionals of the future and it is up to us to safeguard museums for future generations.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?
I particularly enjoyed meeting people from different cultures with different backgrounds and ideas on how museums and cultural institutions are run. This international students on my course really gave me an eye opener into how museums are run in their respective countries, something that I feel may be useful for me if I choose to work outside of the UK and Ireland at a future date. I also liked the lively discussions centred on our reading lists that happened weekly in classes. As well as the thrill and challenge of research for essays after being away from academic study for six years.

What would you say about Leeds as a city?
I love Leeds and really miss not being there! I count Leeds as my ‘home’ city now and being back in Ireland is only a temporary thing until I can get a job in Leeds. The people of Leeds are some of the friendliest I have met and won’t hesitate to help you if you have a problem. Also Leeds has some of the best food and beer in the UK- a must have for students!

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?
I have surprised myself by pushing myself out of my comfort zone to make friends from around the world and to take on opportunities that I feel that have truly benefited my professional and personal development. I’m also surprised how many Irish people or people of Irish decent there is in Leeds!

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?
The Brotherton Library is my dream library and would give anything to have it in my own home. Being a Bibliophile the libraries both satiated both my personal and course related reading for the entirety of the time I was at Leeds and I hope this will continue as an alumni. The staff on my course went above and beyond to give me feedback on essays to help improve my research and writing techniques.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?
There are lots and lots of societies that students can join from the French society to a Harry Potter society that plays ‘Quidditch’ in Hyde Park in Leeds! There is also the language centre for students to partake in formal or informal language lessons. I participated in some French lessons to improve my knowledge of French; something that I feel has benefited me as some employers at job interviews have commented on my abilities to speak French. There is also an excellent gym on campus, ‘The Edge’, that I used daily. I definitely recommend exercise as a form of stress relief around essay and dissertation time!

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?
I would say that you may not have heard of Leeds but to give the course and the city a chance. It is one of the best courses for Museum Studies within the UK and Ireland and is a fulfilling and well-rounded course. I would also advice you to perhaps get a volunteering placement started in a museum or gallery at the start of your course and not wait until the placement module. I volunteered at the Marks & Spencer’s Company Archive for a year and the experience I gained from this was a lot more valuable than just eight weeks of experience in the placement module.

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?
I am currently applying for jobs in Ireland and on the UK mainland, mainly jobs involving exhibitions, collections or curatorial work. I have had some freelance work in museums in Dublin and spend most of time in the city volunteering across the various sites of the National Museum of Ireland. I am also writing articles on Fashion History for a number of journals and publications, whilst simultaneously gaining fashion history experience with the National Museums of Ireland costume collection in Ireland.

I feel that the foundation of knowledge of the history of museums coupled with improved research techniques and writing skills will stead me well in my pursuit of a curatorial or exhibitions based job. The research aspect of the MA course will be useful in these type of jobs as the skills I have learnt will enable me to research in depth any topic that I am given to research whilst working in a museum.

 

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