Special post for graduates of our MAs: you can now sign up to do further options

Over the years, many alumni of our MA programmes have kept in touch and let us know that they wished they could study with us again.They wish they could take options that they missed out on during their MAs or they’re interested in options that have been introduced to our offerings since they graduated. Some want to keep their academic tools sharp while they think about a PhD. Others would find particular options useful for professional development.

So we’ve decided to introduce a new scheme in which MA graduates can enrol in our MA options, beginning immediately! We’ve announced the Autumn term options with places available, and we’ll release the information about our Spring 2020 options soon. Note that library and e-library access is included!

We hope you’ll find the scheme attractive, and are very keen to have your feedback (send it straight to me on l.topp@bbk.ac.uk).

Here are the details:

For the first time in 2019-20, we are opening up places on our MA options to our MA graduates (from History of Art, History of Art with Photography and Museum Cultures), in response for demand for further personal enrichment and professional development. Please note that if you have submitted your final dissertation you are eligible to take part (even if you have not yet officially graduated.) This scheme is also available to those who have completed the PG Certificate or the PG Diploma.

What to expect

  • You will be taking these modules alongside seminar-size groups of current MA students. The overall number will not normally exceed 18. You’ll be given access to all preparatory readings and other resources, and will be part of the seminar along with the rest of the group. As you’ll remember from your own studies, doing the reading in advance is crucial to your own and everyone else’s experience of the seminar, so we ask all participants to commit to coming to class prepared.
  • You will be included on any class visits to sites and collections.
  • You will have full access to the Birkbeck library and its online resources, as well as to the module’s Moodle page, for the duration of the module.
  • You won’t be asked to do the assessment (final essay) for the module.

How to sign up

  • The list of options available in the Autumn term 2019 is available in the attached document, with dates and times. You can opt to take one or more, as long as the times don’t clash.
  • Places on each module are limited, so please rank your choices in order of preference.
  • Places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so send your ranked choices (including an indication of how many you would like to take) to art-history@bbk.ac.uk as soon as possible and no later than 25 September.

Cost: £650 per option module.








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Open Evening, Factory World and Imagined Cosmopolis

I had a very enjoyable time speaking to a wonderful range of people at our open evening last night, all of whom were in the process of putting in (or seriously considering putting in) applications for BA, Grad Cert and MA programmes in the department, to start in a couple of weeks time. There is still time, so if you’re reading this and considering joining us, or re-joining us, don’t hesitate to put in an application, and to contact me (l.topp@bbk.ac.uk) or our admissions tutor Dorigen Caldwell (d.caldwell@bbk.ac.uk).

Some dates to keep in mind for incoming students – induction evenings are coming up as follows:

Weds 25 September, 6-9pm for BA History of Art, BA History of Art with Curating, BA History of Art with Film and BA History of Art and History

Thurs 26 September, 6-9pm for MA/PG Certificate/PG Diploma in History of Art, History of Photography, History of Architecture and Museum Cultures

Saturday 28 September, 10am-1pm for Graduate Certificate in History of Art and Architecture

Two posts ago I included a special bit for all our EU students, and had a nice message back from Lara, who’s joining us on the MA History of Photography: ‘As an EU citizen working in London and now studying I feel very supported and welcomed. Thank you.’ David Latchman, the Master of Birkbeck, recently wrote to all staff acknowledging that we’re all rattled by the national crisis and including this statement I wanted to share with you: ‘Birkbeck is proud of its inclusive and international outlook.  Whatever course the UK ultimately takes in relation to Brexit we are committed to welcoming and supporting staff and students from the European Union and across the globe. We are committed to the breadth and scope of our international academic collaborations.’

The brilliant charity Art Fund has announced its 2019 Student Art Pass offer, which is a good one, especially if you’re eager to get to some of the great exhibitions coming up this season but are looking to defray the sometimes breathtaking cost of entry. Here’s the info, and note the December deadline.

Student Art Pass – a year of art and opportunities for a fiver

A Student Art Pass lets you dive into culture on a budget with free entry to hundreds of museums and galleries across the UK, and 50% off major exhibitions.

Plus, you’ll gain access to paid arts opportunities and grow your network by joining the #WeAreArtful #StudentArtPass community. All for just £5 a year.

Available for a limited time (deadline 15 December). Get your £5 pass today: 


I can give one more sneak preview of a special event coming up this term, organised by our Architecture Space and Society Centre, which is a very active hub for research events related to architectural history from medieval to contemporary. They’ve collaborated here with the Birkbeck Institute of Humanities. (Note the date: it might be good to have an absorbing distraction…)

Factory World: Architecture and Industrialization over Time and Space

11.00-6.00, October 31, 2019, Keynes Library, Organized by Mark Crinson (History of Art, Birkbeck) and Claire Zimmerman (visiting scholar from University of Michigan), and featuring speakers from Technical University Berlin, and universities of Newcastle, Brighton and Rochester (NY). This one-day symposium explores new research on factory architecture and images of factories between the Industrial Revolution and the present day, and across several different countries. Factories offer distinctive ways to understand architecture as a globally interconnected phenomenon, intimately tied to urban change, visions of modernity and technological utopia. The event will offer speakers and audiences the opportunity to share ideas around questions of political economy in architecture.

Finally, another announcement of an exciting new book out from one of our academics. Dr Charlotte Ashby has co-edited Imagined Cosmopolis: Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s-1920s, published by Peter Lang. The book explores ways in which the arts operated internationally between 1870-1920s against a tide of rising nationalism. And how they helped to challenge national and nationalistic conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. Why does that sound familiar…

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Impressions of Venice, and a book launch with a difference

Hello again –

I wanted to share this wonderful collaborative blogpost with you. It’s an account by three of our students of their impressions of Venice and Padua on the annual department study trip earlier this year. It includes both art and food, and a plug for our annual trips generally. The trips are a highlight of many students’ experience of studying with us. You can learn more about our trips and read about past trips here. Thank you to Angela (MA Museum Cultures), Sue (MA History of Art) and Steve (BA History of Art) for responding so generously and eloquently to my arm-twisting at the end of term party… The destination for the 2020 study trip will be announced soon!

Also sending an invitation to the launch of the exciting new book by Dr Mara Polgovsky-Ezcurra, our Lecturer in Contemporary Art. It’s called Touched Bodies: The Performative Turn in Latin American Art and is published by the prestigious US publisher Rutgers University Press. The launch is on October 1st, 19.00-21.00 at the Live Art Development Agency in East London – more info and a booking link here. The launch won’t just be the usual prosecco and canapes affair, but will include a performance by the dancer and artist Margarita Zafrilla in collaboration with Mara herself, who is also a dancer. All welcome – it’s free of charge, but make sure to book.






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Sneak preview

This is a special, out of term, blog post, to give you a sneak preview of what’s ahead, this month and this coming term. I also want to welcome all our new students joining us on all our programmes this Autumn – we’re very much looking forward to meeting you at the inductions in the last week of September, and then in class the week after that.

If you’re getting this, and you’re thinking you’d like to be one of those incoming students, or you know someone who’s considering it, there is still time to apply, right up to mid-October. We have a wider than ever range of programmes this year, from introductory Certificates, BA History of Art with Foundation Year, and/or with pathways in Curating, Film, History and (new in 2019) Languages, Graduate Certificate (for those with first degrees outside of art/art history), MA Museum Cultures, MA History of Art, and, also new in 2019, MA History of Architecture and MA History of Photography. Just google ‘Birkbeck’ and the name of the programme and you’ll get to the relevant webpage with info and application links.

The best way of finding out more is to drop into the Open Evening for late applicants on 12 September, 4.30-7 –  History of Art staff will be there giving advice and guidance.

Seems a good moment to emphasise how EU-friendly Birkbeck is, and how much we value the very high proportion of EU students who study with us – you enrich our academic culture immensely, and we look forward to that continuing, Brexit or no Brexit, deal or no deal. Birkbeck has committed to charging the same home fees it’s always charged to EU students for those starting with us in 2019 – and you’ll pay home fees for the entirety of your programme. Student loans are also available as before. A helpful statement from Birkbeck is here. Another thing to keep in mind if you’re an EU student (or a home student with another first language) is that we don’t demand the IELTS English qualification – we’re happy to assess your English skills very individually and very efficiently, so don’t let that get in the way of applying.

So, what’s coming up:

The deadline for RFSA bursaries for Certificate and BA students is on Friday 13 September 2019.  RFSA stands for Royal Female School of Art, which was an early art school for women, and now exists as a trust supporting access for all students, no matter what gender, to visual arts education. Our department is delighted to be the recipient of a generous grant which allows us to support Cert HE and BA students experiencing financial hardship through bursaries. You can find more details and the application form here.

Open House London on the weekend of 21-22 September. This is a great event, in which we show off our historically and culturally significant School of Arts building to the public. You are all very welcome, either to come along on a tour to learn about the building’s background as early Victorian terraced houses, and its close connection with the radical Bloomsbury Group (and to check out some Bloomsbury paintings…). You should also think about volunteering, welcoming visitors, giving tours and/or acting as a steward. It’s a fantastic experience, and there’s training providing. You just need to be available on 16 September 6pm for the training, and then for a shift on either the morning or afternoon of 21 or 22 September. Email me (Leslie) on l.topp@bbk.ac.uk and wonderful volunteer coordinator Eva Hoog if you’re interested in hearing more or signing up: eva.hoog@btconnect.com. Or just come along between 10 and 4 on 21 Sept for a tour! More here. And you can watch a film about the building (featuring some History of Art lecturers) here.

And the promised sneak preview: as usual, Autumn term brings an exceptionally rich programme of talks, tours, and events free for you to join alongside your studies. Here’s just a taste (you heard it first here!) – more to come in future blogs and on the relevant websites.

The Centre for Museum Cultures, a hub for intellectual exchange and debate relating to all aspects of museology, curation and heritage, has two upcoming events:

Thomas Ardill, Curator at the Museum of London, will be giving a talk on the development of the exhibition ‘London’s Secret Rivers’ on Monday 21 October 6pm in Keynes Library. Thomas will explain the Museum of London’s exhibition-making process from programming to design and installation, and reflect on the experience of co-curating with an archaeological curator including the collaborative process, the challenges of putting on a multimedia display and what he has learned by curating an art collection in a social history museum.

In December (date and time TBC), there will be a special gallery tour at the V&A by Provenance and Spoliation Curator Jacques Schuhmacher. He will give a behind-the-scenes tour of the special display ‘Troubling Objects: Uncovering the Story of Nazi looting’, which uncovers the history behind several fascinating objects of incredible craftsmanship that take us to the heart of the Nazis’ looting of art across Europe.

Murray Seminars on Medieval and Renaissance Art: These seminars are open to all, and attract interested members of the public, staff and students from other London colleges and beyond.  They are an opportunity to hear and contribute to cutting-edge research, often at the very early stages of work in progress. This term’s seminars are:

Petr Ulicny, 16th October, 5pm, Keynes Library: The Origins of Renaissance Architecture in Bohemia

Michael Carter, 12th November, 5pm, Keynes Library: Relics in late-medieval England: some monastic evidence

Laura Jacobus, 4th December, 5pm, Keynes Library: Faces and Enigmas: maker-portraits in the work of Giotto and Giovanni Pisano

More posts and more sneak previews to come on this blog in the course of September, so if you haven’t yet subscribed to receive new posts in your inbox, now’s the time!



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