Amy Walker, MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies student

Amy Walker

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I studied History of Art at Oxford Brookes University. After I graduated in 2015, I took a year away from studying to work before returning to do my MA in Leeds, which is my hometown. I have worked for a few years in visitor experience at Harewood House and undertook my work placement at The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. For my MA dissertation, I researched the representation of the slave trade at Harewood House.  

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

My goal since leaving high school has been to build a career in curating. Leeds is a highly regarded university and the Art Gallery and Museum Studies MA sounded ideal. The course appealed to me because of the mandatory work placement and the optional module you take in the second term. The MA symposium that takes place in the second term was key for me as I wanted to challenge myself and improve my public speaking skills. As a city, Leeds is culturally rich with many museums, galleries and other heritage organisations, including several that are on campus. The staff have a wide range of research interests and are leaders in their fields; it was inspiring to be taught by academics whose work I have studied. 

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I am struggling somewhat to put this into words. Art has always been a huge part of my life. I was lucky that growing up my parents would take me to museums and galleries, instilling a passion for the arts from a young age. I love that two people can be looking at the same painting and take something completely different away from it. For some it can be an emotional experience, for others, it can inspire creativity or provoke discussion. Exhibitions can challenge you to think differently and affect positive change in people. Ultimately, art changes lives, and I think this is the crux of the matter for me. That is why I am passionate about it.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

In the first week of the MA, we were assigned our group project for the Interpreting Cultures module. We were put into groups and given around five weeks to design and implement an exhibition for The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. It was a big challenge to undertake such a project with my fellow students whom I’d only just met but it was extremely rewarding. Seeing our hard work come together into a physical exhibition was a fantastic experience. I also enjoyed watching the presentations at the MA symposium. It was fascinating to see how every person took elements of what we had learnt on the course and utilised it in their dissertation projects.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

The students on the course were from all corners of the globe – I’ve met people from Nigeria, Taiwan, China, America and more. I’ve learnt about their experiences of heritage in their countries and have a greater understanding of international issues as a result.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The School had just moved into the new University Road building when I started studying at Leeds. I found myself gravitating towards the common room on a regular basis as it is a great place to catch up with friends and work together. The Edward Boyle library has a dedicated floor for postgraduates which comes in handy when you are seeking a quieter study space. For group work, we made use of the Laidlaw library, which has plenty of spaces with interactive screens, ideal for preparing group presentations. It was fantastic to have heritage institutions such as The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery on campus and they are all well worth several visits.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

The Student Union regularly hold events including the summer ball. There is a network for postgraduates called Interconnections who meet regularly for meals and other events, which is a great way to make friends outside of your course.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

I have found the past year to be the most rewarding of my academic career so far. The people you meet throughout are amazing to listen to and learn from, whether they may be staff or course-mates. Leeds and Yorkshire have a huge amount to offer with respect to museums, galleries and other cultural institutions and you will be hard pressed to find a better location to study with a wider variety of organisations available within such easy reach.

What do you plan to do when 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 looking for a curatorial job in the sector and in the interim, I am working in visitor experience at Harewood House. The work placement module of the course, in particular, has allowed me to gain valuable practical experience which means that I am much better equipped to go on and build my dream career.