SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

MA Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies (2019 entry)

Runs jointly with the School of Arts and Department of Anthropology

Select year of entry: 2019

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This programme is perfect if you wish 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 also 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. Additionally, it provides 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.

Why study MA Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies

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 deprivileges 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. 

For more information email: 

Student Profile - Mansi Rao
ANT - PG - 2018 - Mansi Rao - MA Museum Studies - IMG 240,186,165t,56t

"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

Entry requirements

  • 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.

Featured events

Full time one year, part time over 2 or 3 years



Maria Kostoglou

Dr Maria Kostoglou is a Lecturer in Curating and Museology and the co-convenor of the MA in Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies.  She explains why SOAS is an ideal venue for researching Museum Studies.

How did you become interested in Museum and Heritage Studies?

I studied archaeology at BA level and specialised in ancient metalwork (MPhil and PhD). My interest in the subject developed through my professional experiences with the museum and heritage sectors mainly as a curator and researcher dealing with the everyday challenges of museum work but also thinking about the purpose and the future of it.

What does the course involve?

The MA in Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies involves the study of history, theory and practice in all three areas from diverse perspectives with a focus on non-Western art and culture, and both tangible and intangible heritage.

Students always enjoy the hands-on practical sessions in modules like Curating Cultures that is based on the preparation of group exhibitions at the Lady David Gallery (which is our in-house teaching gallery space with fitted display cabinets.) Similarly, they love working with original artefacts as part of our collaboration with the National Maritime Museum and meeting up with professional curators, conservators, and outreach officers from well-known institutions in London.

What kind of students will the course appeal to?

With its interdisciplinary focus, it will suit students interested in broadening their expertise across anthropology, art history and archaeology; it also provides solid training to students who are interested in working within the museum and heritage sector, as well with cultural industries broadly defined. It is suitable for professionals who are looking to further or update their academic and practical skills.

The typical student is motivated and engaged, multilingual, often with a first degree in art history, archaeology, anthropology but also in education, media, architecture or design. Often, with some working or volunteering experience in the museum or heritage sector.

What facilities are available?

Ideally situated at the heart of the University of London, in close proximity to the British Library, the British Museum, the Petrie Museum and others.  Students benefit from the exceptional archives held within the SOAS Library, the teaching collections of artefacts at SOAS galleries, and the exhibition programmes of the Brunei Gallery, which are all on their doorstep.  

What is special about the course at SOAS?

The MA in Museums, Heritage and Material Cultural Studies uniquely combines academic expertise in the study of museums and heritage with regional material culture studies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  The structure of the programme balances core/compulsory modules with optional modules available across the departments of Anthropology and the School of Arts.

Can you recommend a good book to read on Museum and Heritage Studies?

Museums, Ethics and Cultural Heritage by B. L. Murphy (ed), ICOM- Routledge.

What do students do after graduating?

Our graduates aim to work within the museum and heritage sector, seek careers in cultural industries, and the charity/philanthropic sectors; graduates with strong analytical research skills pursue PhDs or other research positions.

What is the most important piece of advice you’d give to a student considering a career in Museum and Heritage Studies?

Make the most out of learning and training opportunities around you; build up a support network; and bring your passion and enthusiasm to work. 

Taylor Norman - Postgraduate student video testimonial
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Taylor Norman - MHMC student video testimonial

Meeyoun Kim - Postgraduate student video testimonial
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Meeyoun Kim - MHMC student video testimonial


Occasionally the availability of optional modules changes as a result of staffing and other circumstances. Students who had signed up for such modules will be notified as soon as possible and given the opportunity to choose from available alternatives.

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.

Programme Detail


Students must complete a Dissertation (10,000 words)

Taught Component
Core Module
Compulsory Modules
Module Code Credits Term
Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology 15PANC008 30 Full Year
Theory and Method in Art History 15PARH097 15 Term 1

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:

Module Code Credits Term
Curating Cultures Cohort B 15PARH088 15 Term 2
702 Ethnographic Research Methods 15PANH002 15

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
Module Code Credits Term
Anthropology of Globalisation (PG) 15PANH061 15 Term 2
750B Ethnographic Locations: East Asia 15PANH062 15
750A Ethnographic Locations: Sub-Saharan Africa 15PANH063 15 Term 2
Culture and Society of Japan 15PANH065 15 Term 1
Culture and Society of South Asia 15PANH064 15 Term 2
Culture and Society of South East Asia 15PANH066 15 Term 1
750C Ethnographic Locations: Near and Middle East 15PANH067 15
Culture and Society of West Africa 15PANH068 15 Term 2
School of Arts
Module Code Credits Term
Discourses on Modern and Contemporary Art of the Middle East 15PARH096 15 Term 2
The Silk Road and its Origins: Art and Archaeology 15PARH095 15 Term 1
China and the Silk Road: Art and Archaeology 15PARH093 15 Term 2
Modern and Contemporary Korean Art 15PARH060 15 Term 2
Arts of Goryeo and Joseon Korea 15PARH059 15 Term 1
Buddhist and Hindu Art of the Maritime Silk Route 15PARH057 15 Term 2
Arts of Modern and Contemporary China (since 1800) 15PARH055 15 Term 2
Arab Painting 15PARH054 15 Term 1
Themes in the Visual Arts of Dynastic China (before 1800) 15PARH051 15 Term 1
Modern and Contemporary Arts in Africa 15PARH048 15 Term 1
Ceramics in Chinese Culture: 10th - 18th Centuries 15PARH046 15 Term 1
Islam and the West: Artistic and Cultural Contacts 15PARH034 15 Term 2
Popular Practice in the Edo Period Arts 15PARH008 15 Term 2
Shogunal Iconography in the Edo Period 15PARH007 15 Term 1
Contemporary Art and the Global 15PARH085 15 Term 2
Issues in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art 15PARH083 15 Term 2
Islamic Art and Architecture of Eastern Mediterranean of the Period of the Crusades (11th-14th centuries) 15PARH080 15 Term 2
The Figure of the Buddha: Theory, Practice and the Making of Buddhist Art History 15PARH076 15 Term 2
Tibetan Buddhist Monuments in Context 15PARH075 15 Term 2
Art and Architecture of the Seljuks and Ottomans (12th -15th centuries) 15PARH070 15 Term 1
Curating the Sacred: Buddhism and Hinduism on display 15PARH069 15 Term 1
Arts of the Tamil Temple 15PARH067 15 credits - 0.5 unit
Islamic Visual Culture 15PARH065 15 Term 1
Chinese Porcelain: Trade, Transfer and Reception 15PARH064 15 Term 2
Architectural Boundaries and the Body 15PARH063 15 Term 2
Studies in Global Digital Cultures 15PMSH029 15 Term 1
Media Spectacle and Urban Space in East Asia 15PMSH026 15 Term 2
Podcasting 15PMSH022 15 Term 2
Studies in Media, Information Communication Technologies and Development 15PMSH019 15 Term 2
International Political Communication 15PMSH009 15 Term 2
Studies in Global Media and Post-National Communication 15PMSH007 0.5
International Journalisms in the Digital Context: Theory and Practice 15PMSH006 15 Term 1
Transnational Communities and Diasporic Media:Networking, Connectivity, Identity 15PMSH004 15 Term 2
Mediated Culture in the Middle East: Politics and Communications 15PMSH003 15 Term 2
Topics in Global Digital Cultures 15PMSC034 15 Term 2
Indian vocal music: Styles and histories 15PMUH025 15 Term 2
Analytical Approaches to the Global Creative and Cultural Industries 15PMUH023 15 Term 1
Sacred Sound in South Asia 15PMUH021 15 Term 2
Aspects of Music and Religion in South East Asia 15PMUH017 15 Term 2
Music, Place and Politics in Cuba 15PMUH015 15 Term 1
Pop and Politics in East Asia (Masters) 15PMUH014 15 Term 1
Music, Exile and Diaspora: the Jews of Arab Lands 15PMUH011 15 Term 1
Gender and Music (MMus) 15PMUH009 15 Term 2
The Music Business (Masters) 15PMUH003 15 Term 2
Ethnicity, Religion and Gender in Middle Eastern Musical cultures 15PMUH024 15 Term 1


Programme Specification

Important notice

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 and Learning

Teaching & Learning

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 Theory and Method in Art History - 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


During the academic year, teaching is centred mainly around lectures and seminars. For the core module in the first term, there is a one hour thematic lecture, followed by a 1 hour tutorial. Lectures and seminars are often taken by different teachers to provide a variety of angles on the subject.  The majority of the student’s time will be through their own independent study. Students become more active in class through their reading and essay-writing and should greatly enhance their participation in discussion groups.

The Dissertation

These are taken by final-year students only, its aim is to provide an opportunity for students to conduct original research on their own initiative, to engage in in-depth analysis of particular subjects and to use a range of primary sources. It is assessed by a single 10,000-word dissertation (including notes but excluding bibliography).


A Masters in Museums, Heritage and Material Cultural Studies helps you to understand the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised.

This programme will endow you with specialist understanding of producers, audiences, and other cultural and social aspects of mass media. Over the years the SOAS department has trained numerous leading anthropologists who have gone on to occupy lectureships and professorships throughout the world. Equally, students gain skills during their degree that transfer well to areas such as information and technology, government service, the media and tourism.  

Postgraduate students leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek, including analytical and critical skills; ability to gather, assess and interpret data; high level of cultural awareness; and problem-solving.  

A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

For more information visit our Graduate Destinations page.

A Student's Perspective

The SOAS Department of Anthropology's uncompromising range of perspectives, diverse student body and friendly supportive staff who always have time for their students make it without a doubt the best Social Anthropology undergrad experience around.

James Keogh

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