As part of my placement for the course, I was allocated with an assistant position in Manchester Art Gallery. And whenever I come in for work, I would see at least five people waiting in front of the gate for the gallery to open at 10.00 a.m. Sometimes it would be the elderly, and sometimes there would a group of students, filled with excited even in the early morning. This gallery was the place where the art loving bees visit the most.

The position I worked in was Curatorial Research Assistant, mostly responsible for documentation and collections information database called KE-EMu. The reason why I chose this position is because of the privilege it offered to students, who studies museums and art galleries. Working directly under the supervision of Collections Manager and interact with curators, loans manager, visitor teams and other volunteers, you will be able to get a taste of what really happens behind the curtains.

Rarely visitors get to see the process of making an exhibition nor they are told of how much finances were required to purchase the object, how it was packed, repaired and sent to the very space you see the art work. Documentation functions as a camera that prints out photographs of each scenes that occur in the gallery’s daily life. One day you will come across an auction records and catalogue while on the next day, you get to work with grant fund applications. Not only you learn different artworks and the creator of those master pieces, but you also witness the specific work’s journey to the Art Gallery.

Especially if you are a fan of classic paintings, you will have plenty of opportunity to delve into the rich information on artists and their works. This documentation project that I was participating had no deadline, so there was less pressure. My supervisor, the Collections Manager, specifically informed me that I take advantage of this opportunity as much as possible. During the course period, in the end I was able to name at least five oil paintings that I liked. This is the position where you gain knowledge about museum procedure and grow a perspective on artworks that enables you to recognise the aesthetic value of a work in an instant.


Manchester Art Gallery (Photo: Hyewon Choi)


Hyewon Choi is a Master’s Student in the Art Galleries and Museum Studies programme at the Institute for Cultural Practices.