This interdisciplinary programme brings together anthropological, art historical and archaeological perspectives to explore the interconnecting fields of museums, heritage and material culture studies. The MA disprivileges Western museum and heritage discourses and practices, and explores tangible and intangible cultural heritage as spheres of global interaction.
The MA will equip students with a theoretically-informed critical understanding of museums, heritage and material/visual culture. Taught across the Department of Anthropology and School of Arts, the MA provides a unique opportunity to learn about current debates in World Art and World Heritage, combining ethnographic, art historical and archaeological approaches.
Students will be introduced to a wide range of thematic and theoretical issues, and will have the opportunity to curate a small exhibition in the Curating Cultures module, and put into practice anthropological research techniques in the Ethnographic Research Methods course.
Situated in London’s ‘Museum Mile’, a few hundred meters from the British Museum, and with its own Brunei Gallery, SOAS provides a unique environment in which to study the cultural heritage of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Student Profile - Mansi Rao
"With a background in architecture and a research career in the field of traditional built environments and crafts, I had always looked out for an appropriate postgraduate degree until I discovered the MA Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies at SOAS. The programme, with its interdisciplinary approach, is unique and offers both theoretical learning and hands-on experience instilled through working with museums and their collections. This, combined with the academic support of my tutors, has provided the perfect balance to develop new skills, which I can take back and enhance my work at the Design, Innovation and Craft Resource Centre at CEPT University, India and to prepare for a PhD which I hope to pursue in the near future. The intimate and informal environment at SOAS has allowed me to feel at home and the School’s strong value system has shaped me as an individual at diverse levels."
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
Start of programme: September
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
Who is this programme for?:
The programme is ideal for students wishing to pursue a career in the museum, heritage and arts sectors with a focus on non-Western art and culture, and both tangible and intangible heritage. It will suit practicing museum and heritage professionals who are interested in strengthening their knowledge of contemporary debates in critical museology, critical heritage studies and material culture studies. With its interdisciplinary focus, it will suit students interested in broadening their expertise across anthropology, art history and archaeology. It will also provide an excellent postgraduate foundation for students interested in pursuing PhD research concerned with museums, heritage, and material/visual culture in Asian, African, Middle Eastern and transnational/transcultural contexts.
- Candidates must normally possess a first or upper second class honours degree or equivalent. (E.g. an equivalent bachelors degree from a good US university would have a GPA of 3.3 or above).
The programme is interdisciplinary in nature so it is not necessary to have a degree in a discipline directly related to the programme.
Each application is assessed on its individual merits and entry requirements may be modified in the light of relevant professional experience, and where the applicant can show a practical commitment to their field of study. Candidates must also be able to provide two supporting references.
- Full time one year, part time over 2 or 3 years
Please note that modules need a minimum number of students to run. Should the module not run, students will be notified of an alternative.
The programme consists of 180 credits in total: 120 credits of modules and a dissertation of 10,000 words at 60 credits.
All students are expected to take the core and compulsory modules listed below.
Students are advised to take one or both of the recommended modules listed below or may wish to select from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology or the School of Arts (Departments of Centre for Media Studies, History of Art and Archaeology or Music) options lists.
The remaining credits can be selected from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology list or the School of Arts options. See below for a detailed programme structure.
Students must complete a Dissertation (10,000 words)
Choose a module(s) from Postgraduate Open Options to the value of 15 credits, or from the list of options below to the value of 15 credits.
Choose the two recommended modules below:
Choose one of these modules and a 15-credit module from the Anthropology and Sociology list or a 15-credit module from the School of Arts list below
30 credits worth of modules from the Anthropology and Sociology list and/or from the School of Arts list below
List of Modules (subject to availability)
Anthropology and Sociology
School of Arts
The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.
Teaching & Learning
Students taking the MA in Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies will have the opportunity to achieve:
- A critical awareness of contemporary theoretical debates in museum studies, cultural heritage studies, and material/visual culture studies;
- A familiarity with the distinctive contributions of anthropology, art history and archaeology to these interdisciplinary fields;
- A critical awareness of World Art/World Cultures/World Heritage, with an emphasis on SOAS’s regional specialisms (Asia, Africa and the Middle East) as well as transnational/diasporic contexts;
- An understanding of ethnographic approaches to tangible and intangible heritage research;
- Experience of object-based knowledge and museological research methods.
All Masters programmes consist of 180 credits, made up of taught modules of 30 or 15 credits, taught over 10 or 20 weeks, and a dissertation of 60 credits. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.
As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework, revising for examinations and so on. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.
More information is on the page for each module.
Acquisition of Programme Learning Outcomes (above) through participation in the core modules, Museums, Heritage and Material Cultures Studies over two terms, including attending lectures, seminars and other teaching sessions. Students are required to attend all classes, study and engage in library and online research extensively on their own, and prepare coursework or complete research projects each term. Most modules are assessed by essay and project work, and some by exam and slide test.
The programme provides for a detailed analysis of key debates regarding the interpretation of the role of museums, heritage and material culture around the world, historically and in the present. The core module, Museums, Heritage and Material Cultures Studies, combined with the two required modules - Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology and Approaches to Critical Interpretation and Aesthetic Theory - as well as the two recommended half-unit option modules, Curating Cultures and Ethnographic Research Methods, provides the variety needed to understand the complexity of the issues involved in the fields of museum studies, heritage studies and material/visual culture studies.
The two-term core module and the two two-term compulsory modules provide broad understandings of traditions, methodologies and debates in anthropology, art history and archaeology, while the shorter option modules deal with more practical issues, including processes of curating non-Western material and ethnographic research methodologies. The option module, Curating Cultures, in particular, provides an in-depth knowledge of the practical, intellectual and ethical issues involved in the interpretation and display of the SOAS teaching collections, and culminates in student-led, group exhibitions in the Lady David Gallery. Here, students will gain knowledge of practices and issues arising from researching, interpreting and displaying SOAS’s collections from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The option module, Ethnographic Research Methods, includes various practical sessions (e.g., on interview technique and research design) and short fieldwork assignments to generate critical awareness among students of their own observational and data recording processes.
Students are also encouraged through modules in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Arts to move beyond their core area of interests and explore other options.
Intellectual (thinking) skills:
Acquisition of Programme Learning Outcomes (above) is fostered in all modules offered in the programme, in that modules will introduce theories and/or information that will need to be assessed critically and engaged with in essay and dissertation writing, exams, slide tests, research project work and seminar presentations. The programme emphasises active learning processes, such as seminar/tutorial discussions and debates, and guided group fieldtrip sessions to museums and heritage sites in London and elsewhere. For skills-based option modules, students work on team-based portfolios, exhibitions, interviews, and presentations.
Subject-based practical skills:
The programme will develop the skills needed for further independent research, writing and thinking in relation to museums, heritage and material culture studies. Students will engage with the study of museums, heritage and material culture in a global perspective, through seminar and class discussions, group-based project work, and the writing of long essays and a dissertation.
The recommended option module Curating Cultures provides a range of hands-on, vocational skills training in object interpretation, exhibition development, text and label-writing, case design and collections management. It will appeal to students wishing to gain academic and professional knowledge of the field of curating. The Ethnographic Research Methods recommended option develops skills in ethnographic research methods and project design. It puts into practice anthropological research techniques, and includes practical sessions on interview techniques, observation and data recording.
- the capacity to express their own ideas orally, visually and in writing, to summarise
- the arguments of others, and to distinguish between the two
- independence of thought and analytical, critical and synoptic skills
- research skills in collecting and collating primary and secondary data
- communication and presentation skills (using oral, visual and written materials and information technology)
- the ability to make a structured argument, reference the works of others, and
- assess historical evidence
- time, planning and management skills
- the ability to engage, where appropriate, in constructive discussion in group situations and to work constructively and productively in groups
- independent learning and critical thinking
- a reflexive approach to cultural assumptions and premises developed
- through a deep understanding of other ways of being in the world
- the ability to recognise and challenge ethnocentric assumptions
Overall, graduates of this programme will gain a range of critical, theoretical and practical skills suitable for those seeking employment as professionals in museums, cultural and heritage organisations in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It will also provide an excellent postgraduate foundation for students interested in pursuing PhD research concerned with museums, heritage, and material/visual culture in Asian, African, Middle Eastern and transnational/transcultural contexts.