MA Museum Studies - Gustav Imam
Years at UEA
Gustav graduated from the MA Museum Studies course (an older variant of the MA Cultural Heritage & Museum Studies course) in 2016.
He now works as a Collections Curator for the Sanskriti Museum & Art Gallery in India.
We spoke to him about his experience as an international student at UEA, and how his placement at the Cambridge University Museum during his degree gave him valuable experience of working within the museum and heritage sector.
I am a Collections Curator for the Sanskriti Museum, one of the first non-governmental museums started in an area of archaeological sites.
It is quite off the beaten track, which means our visitors all search for us because they are interested in us.
This museum is like a living museum, we routinely go to the archaeological sites and make discoveries which we then bring back to the museum, so there is a lot of research involved. The moment that I joined in 2017 the first job was to organise the display and catalogue hundreds of objects within the museum.
In the beginning, I didn’t know where I was heading, but as we went on, I learned a lot and got opportunities to work in other places as well. At the moment, I am also freelancing alongside my museum work.
What was your career path like after graduation from UEA?
I was one of the first students to go into work after we graduated from this course.
I went to work as a research assistant with the South Asian Decorative Arts & Crafts Council in Norwich, which is a collection of Asian artefacts. It had been a place that I volunteered in the past, so it was exciting to go back and work with them again. After that, I took on individual projects: I worked with the National Gallery of Canada in a team of 4-5 people.
What drew you to study Museum Studies at UEA?
I visited England for the first time in 2014, and I didn’t know I would want to study there until I spoke to a friend who had graduated from UEA and he recommended it to me.
I looked at the website and read about the Sainsbury Centre, and that became an important factor to me choosing UEA because I was excited to be studying on a campus that had a museum onsite.
What was your experience of doing a work placement while on this course?
In the year that I completed the placement, we were given 14 options between the 14 students on the course, so things did get a bit competitive!
But I ended up arranging to work on a project within the Cambridge Museum focusing on Asian artefacts.
It actually ended up influencing my dissertation, as I chose to focus on a collection that I had worked with in the Cambridge Museum. It was an old colonial collection with artefacts from India, and I found objects that were from the same region of India that my family had been living in, and there were artefacts from the tribal group that my mother had been a part of. That was really special to me.
What skills did you develop on the work placement?
Time management was a very important skill to learn, because you are working under a lot of time pressure.
Teamwork was also important, and my communication skills became stronger because I was working with students from the USA, Canada, and Germany, and I was the only person from Asia, and so we did have a language barrier between us that we worked to overcome.
I also developed my technical skills which are useful for my current career, for example labelling objects, cataloguing, and photography.
What was your experience of teaching within this course?
It was very different to my undergraduate degree, which I had done in Geography ten years prior.
In those ten years I had been working with the Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage, so there was quite a big gap. But it will always be a very memorable time of studying for me, and I think what I valued the most was the one-on-one meetings with supervisors.
We would be able to create our own questions to base our essays around, and we would talk about this with our supervisors. I was really using my mind to learn both day and night. We also had field trips, for example we visited the Imperial War Museum in London, and I remember we had a group project in which we had to build up our own exhibition, so there was a lot of teamwork involved in that. I can’t remember any dull moments!
How would you describe your experience as an international student at UEA?
As an international student I was able to apply for a pre-booked place to live on campus in the Ziggurats.
I was glad to be on campus because I would have been lost without it, but UEA really felt like a family for me. It was great to be living on campus and getting involved with the student union and different societies. All facilities were wonderful, and the CareerCentral service really helped me through CV building workshops and other careers events.
What advice would you give to someone who might be considering studying this course at UEA?
I would really recommend this course to anyone with a passion for art history or humanities, because it will change your life for the better.
I think it is a great course because I was able to go from studying Geography in my undergraduate degree to studying museums, and it meant that I could pursue my passion the way that I am now. We were taught that museums are not just about looking back, but are about the present and the future too, because you have to be looking at how you will be remembered in 100 years.