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March 2016

Feature series: SR in the curriculum

(31 March 2016)

In support of the priority to encourage socially responsible graduates, Humanities provides funding to course leaders through the annual Social Responsibility in the Curriculum competition. The aim is for Humanities students to be encouraged to think how their enthusiasm for their subject can communicate, connect or be relevant beyond the immediate demands of their course.

Each issue we will be featuring a project which has benefited from the competition. This issue, we introduce you to Dr Kostas Arvanitis’ project to encourage students to engage with the local community through an exhibition of University objects. 

Dr Kostas Arvanitis, from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, has run a project to produce an exhibition of objects from the University’s Museum of Medicine and Health (MMH).

Students from the MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies course performed a range of collections management, interpretation and exhibition development tasks with about 35 objects. They researched and documented medical objects, assessed their condition and conservation and environmental needs, examined the long-term sustainability of the collection, proposed possible uses of the collection by both students/staff, and examined possible collaborations between the MMH and other local cultural organisations. This work, in turn, informed the development of an exhibition of the objects designed to reach members of the wider public.

The students were split into three groups to interpret the objects and put together an exhibition designed to engage with the local community. The project focused on the production and evaluation of student-led work that aimed to engage with external local audiences and communities. In this context, the project contributed to the cultural and social life and well-being of local audiences.

The course unit Managing Collections and Exhibitions gives students real-life career-oriented experience and skills in managing a museum collection, working with cultural organisations, and developing an exhibition. It also enabled MMH to promote its collection’s use to University students and staff, and publicise it to a wider audience. The exhibition offered a tangible outcome of a student-led University-Cultural Partner collaboration that targets external audiences.

Reponses to this year’s exhibition were very positive. Kostas commented: “About 200 people visited the exhibition and their feedback has been extremely enthusiastic and positive. Although this was an one day pop-up exhibition, its life will go on: following Faculty funding and the project's tangible impact on student learning and public engagement, we have received funding from the Wellcome Trust to digitise the exhibited objects and create an online version of the exhibition, a social media campaign around them, and a game based on the medical objects to be played by people during the Manchester Histories Festival in June 2016.”

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