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Experience-based learning: working with industry partners

The Exhibition Project course, part of the MA in Museum Studies, provides on-the-job training in integrated exhibition development.

15 December 2015

The course includes aspects such as:

  • user evaluation
  • content research
  • designing and delivering a public engagement event
  • digital resources
  • an exhibition to an average of 20 graduate students each year. 

Combining academic learning with workplace skills

A major partnership with the Science Museum, London, provides a strong combination of traditional academic mentoring and experience-based learning that supports professional development.

It connects students with external audiences through opportunities to produce assessment outputs such as:

  • an exhibition at the UCL Institute of Archaeology
  • a late evening event at the Science Museum
  • digital resources (available on-line and in the exhibition)
  • social media outputs
  • short pieces in UCL publications and video.

Typically, the outputs showcase cutting-edge research carried out by UCL researchers across different disciplines.

Students take control of their own project to develop skills

Starting in January every year, students work in a team to:

  • develop and deliver an exhibition project
  • create digital resources
  • plan a public engagement event, extending beyond the teaching term to mid-May.

They are provided with a framework within which to work but fundamentally the module aims to enable them to shape their project:

  • they take the lead in developing a management system and a communication approach;
  • choosing team roles and allocating responsibilities and tasks;
  • conceptualising, designing and delivering their project in time and within budget,
  • and considering the wider cultural and policy context.
  • They are also required to work within the legal and ethical framework to which museum professionals need to adhere.

Real life scenarios: reporting to clients and the board

Students report to the Exhibition Board at regular panel meetings.

The Board consists of the client, the course tutors and other stakeholders, as appropriate.

The project client is particularly important and can be internal to UCL or an external organisation for example, the current client is the Science Museum.

Panel meetings are used to provide students with project milestones, discus progress, provide feedback and support and maintain the vision for the project.

Students are expected to produce a number of deliverables before each meeting, which act as formative evaluation of their work/learning and form the basis for the project portfolio (one of the assessed pieces of work).

Students also have access to consultants usually researchers based in other UCL departments, and external organisations to provide professional advice on specific aspects of the project.

Assessed to professional standards

The project is assessed based on professional standards developed by professional bodies such as:

  • the American Alliance of Museums
  • the International Council of Museums
  • Museums and the Web and Universal Design (focusing on people with disabilities in particular).

Learning and assessment are linked to facilitate students’ professional development at the standard expected by museum employers, and to deliver outward-looking assessment outputs such as a Late event at the Science Museum which contributes to the SM’s impact strategy.