Art Identity and Migration

MA Placement at Ben Uri Gallery

Ben Uri gallery image

One of the (many) aspects which drew me to undertake an MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies was undoubtedly the opportunity of an 8 week placement at a museum or gallery. Not only would it provide a stepping stone into a competitive sector, but would allow me to tangibly apply the skills and knowledge acquired on the masters programme.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a placement within the Learning Team at Ben Uri Gallery. Located in St. John’s Wood in London, it is the only specialist art museum in Europe with a core mission of exploring and addressing the all-important issues of identity and migration. There has never been a more crucial time to focus on these topics, and I was thrilled at the prospect of working at such an institution.

From my first day at Ben Uri I felt incredibly welcomed. During my time there, I not only worked as part of the Learning team, but was exposed to all manner of museum and gallery operations including administration, marketing, digital and curatorial practice. I have discovered that all these departments are closely interwoven, and feed into one another, particularly in a smaller institution. In relation to gallery learning specifically, I have gained insight into how learning is facilitated through a manner of different approaches, including in-gallery sessions, digital and physical learning resources, family events and outreach activity days, which I have helped deliver during my time here.

One of the multiple strengths of the Ben Uri intern programme is the level of support and encouragement given. Throughout my placement, I was given opportunities to develop my skills and take on exciting projects, which were all supported by the Intern Development Days, where a mentor worked closely with me on career development and prospective job applications.

A placement highlight was undoubtedly working together with my supervisor to research and write commentary for a learning resource created by the Runnymede Trust in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of Manchester. The online web resource – titled ‘Our Migration Story’ – is being used to directly benefit GCSE History students, as ‘Migration to Britain’ is being added to the History curriculum. My commentary centred on an artwork from the collection, Refugees by Josef Herman, providing context about his own migration and migration to Britain during the Second World War whilst writing in a manner that would be understandable and informative for GCSE students. I am delighted to say that the commentary has been successfully selected for inclusion on the ‘Our Migration Story’ online resource, and will be used by students across the UK when studying and preparing to take their GCSE History exam.

I couldn’t have asked for a better gallery to do my MGE placement. I have been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the small but impressive team at Ben Uri, and have the chance to develop new skills and experiences which will prove crucial as I begin a career in the museum sector.

by Lily Greensmith

MA Art Museum and Gallery Studies