Students Staff

Graduate profiles

Our alumni follow a wide variety of career paths after leaving Essex. Hear about the experiences of former art history at Essex students, and find out some of the careers paths our graduates followed after leaving the University.

Art history graduate profiles

  • Rachel Brown, Estimator, Momart Ltd (BA History of Art, MA Gallery Studies)

    Picture of Rachel Brown, BA History of Art and MA Gallery Studies graduate.

    I joined Momart Ltd a few months after finishing my MA Curating course. I have now been here nearly nine years! . We are part of a network of fine art transport agents around the world, who ship fine art all around the globe.

    The company is divided into two, with the exhibitions department servicing national galleries and museums and the gallery services department servicing the auction houses and commercial galleries.

    My job role is Estimator, in a team of six people within the exhibitions department. We work on exhibition budgets for museums around the world working out all of the costs related to shipping and transporting the artworks to and from the exhibitions. Half of our team is dedicated to working on quotes requested by UK based museums and galleries for exhibitions being held at their premises, and half of us work on quotes requested by other fine art agents around the world, on behalf of the museums and galleries in their home countries (for UK loans to be transported to venues worldwide).

    I work on a lot of projects for all the Tate galleries, The British Museum and many other projects for regional galleries and museums. My job is extremely varied – no exhibition is ever the same so no day is ever the same.

    There are many elements to be considered in our quotes, from de-installing the artworks at the lenders address all the way through to delivery of them at the exhibition venue. Sometimes there are issues that we have no control over, for example Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010, which had a big knock-on effect throughout the airline industry, and then companies like ours; our clients rely on us to ensure the safe arrival of their artworks no matter what! Some situations have never happened before and our clients expect us to solve any issue that arises with the safety of the artwork being the priority.

    What do you find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    It is a rewarding job because I help and advise our clients on various scheduling/pricing issues in order to fit their budget. It is also challenging - we have competitors in this business so we have to constantly keep on top of the current market and change our prices/rates in reaction to varying economic situations.

    I am working in the art world with many people who also appreciate art. I don’t get to view artworks that come into/out of our warehouse as our warehouse and office are on different sites but working on the large exhibitions for the major museums and galleries in London I do get to attend some of the private views, which I enjoy.

    I have a lot of contact with registrars from museums and galleries and am aware of lots of upcoming exhibitions in London and the UK, which keeps me up to date with the current art world goings on.

    What employability tips would you give to art history graduates?

    Definitely try to do some volunteering work if you can afford to. In between gaining my BA Art History and studying for my MA Curating, I volunteered at The National Portrait Gallery for a period of time. I was based in the publication department, and it enabled me to get a really good insight in the inter-departmental workings of the gallery. I worked on the production of the publication 'Great Britons' whilst I was there assisting the publishing manager and I also spent some time in other departments who were working on the same project. The insight I gained whilst volunteering there really gave me a head start on the MA Curating course. I think it also really helped my job application as it was something additional on my CV, which not everyone would have had.

  • Julius G. Beltrame, Company Director (BA History of Art)

    When I graduated I found work as a receptionist in a small tech subsidiary of a big financial data provider. Five and half years and several restructurings later, with no more training than I picked up as I went along, an economics A Level and the clear-thinking and excellent communication skills I'd picked up at Essex, I was promoted to Director of Operations, Principal in Europe. After helping organise (yet) another sale of the assets to a new parent company I eventually made myself redundant two years later to pursue other dreams.

    I'm now the Director of my own company, specialising in one-off, bespoke media projects, ranging from photography to film-making, copywriting and film-finance. Our aim is to pursue projects we like for their value as measured not simply in money terms but primarily for their artistic value. Three years in and we're nearing break-even and have gradually built a portfolio of work.

    How have you used your degree in your career?

    Every time I open my mouth to speak, use my mind actively or imaginatively, every time I engage in a debate or make a judgement, I use my degree. Thankfully my degree gave me skills I treasure way beyond functional facts – every pitch for business, film-script, job application or music video I work on is a story, and art history is the most wonderful way to dive into the actual contents of thousands of years of stories that humanity has told itself about itself. The skills of discernment, judgement, distinguishing one argument from another, imagination, creation and discovering connections in otherwise diverse subjects, these are the stuff of everyday life for me – thank heavens I didn't do a business degree! In fact, I even usefully referred to Aristotle's Poetics in a pitch meeting just the other day, a core text I remember from the first year!

    What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    I get to choose what I do and when, which is lucky as I can exhaust an idea quickly and need to move to another. I love that I can create what I want to see in an image. Last month I set up a shoot to recreate a Caravaggio photographically and in so doing not only make a lovely picture, but also understand what he was doing with lighting and drama – both essential in the picture-making business. I enjoy the fact I know only a few people who would call that 'work'...

    What tips would you give to new students on getting the most out of University?

    Worry less about money and more about what you're swapping it for. Money is fuel to burn in exchange for priceless memories, for friendships you make that last your whole life and if you're doing the right course, for the highest privilege of all – to read the words and consider the creations of the best of humanity and spend time in the company of experts to help light them for you.

    I feel sorry for my friends who chose a law degree, or some other subjects they thought would be good 'job-training' – I seem to be one of the few people I know who loved their degree and had it inspire me to further discovery, rather than so many who had their love crushed under a mountain of banality. Follow what your heart says in the business of love, and then study what you love – it's the only way to flourish as a human.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Whatever job you go for, and if you don't know what you want to do (I had no idea!) then just go for anything that interests you even marginally – and anything else too, as we all like surprises! Prepare thoughtfully. Do your homework. Turn up early.

    If you say you're going to do something, do it and try to find anything about it – no matter how small - to enjoy or to dignify it: it will then make it easier to be enthusiastic about it. By doing these few things you will instantly distinguish yourself ahead of the less fortunate ones that fill every part of working life, the ones I hear complaining about their work instead of figuring out how to make things better.

    If you go on to get in the habit of being the first to step forward for extra responsibility, of considering the goals of others before speaking or negotiating, and then helping them achieve that goal instead of (or even better, as well as) your own, you'll be promoted in no time. Once that happens you can start paying off that pesky loan you took out, and you'll have the rest of your life to relish the best memories and friendships your life could have given you.

    My final thoughts? Be brave and the world will make room for you, especially if you work with the best, most positive people you can find (and if you can work out how to encourage people to be better and more positive, you're made for life).

  • Emma Rebecca Boyce, Paintings Conservator and Technical Art Historian (BA History of Art)

    Picture of Emma rebecca Boyce Gore, BA Art History graduate.

    I graduated from the University of Essex University in 2000 with an abundance of enthusiasm matched only by my lack of ideas for my future career. What does an art history graduate do, other than be an art historian? I certainly wanted something more dynamic and I knew that it had to involve physical interaction with artworks.

    An 'eureka' moment in the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery started me on the long and challenging journey which led me to where I am today. After numerous rejections from private conservators whom I had approached regarding work experience or merely studio visits, my tactics changed: I moved to Italy where I thought I might have better luck. I had fallen in love with Florence when I visited there with fellow students in my second year.

    After more than a year volunteering at a paintings conservation studio and studying the conservation and restoration of easel paintings at Palazzo Spinelli Istituto per L’Arte e il Restauro in Florence, I returned to the UK and began a three-year postgraduate diploma in the conservation of easel paintings at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Cambridge University.

    Following graduation from Cambridge, I completed internships in the paintings conservation departments of the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. I now work freelance in the Amsterdam area.

    How have you used your degree and any other experience gained at university?

    Like many undergraduates, when I began studying at Essex I had many passions and was reluctant to narrow my learning to a single subject. The multi-disciplinary construction of the first year enabled me to indulge various interests and to appreciate the advantage of seeing the ‘bigger picture’. This was certainly good preparation for my profession, the success of which relies greatly on an ability to collect and consider various types of evidence.

    What do find most interesting about what you do now?

    Examination of the painting itself uncovers data that is scrutinised by specialist conservators, art historians, scientists, engineers, historians, and archivists. This is true whether one is searching for sympathetic and effective treatment options or researching the life of the painting or painter. The role of the paintings conservator is to cross-reference the various data collected and to understand the process and intention of the painter concerned. The reward is achieved when one discovers evidence that supports a new conclusion, such as the presence of an unexpected pigment, a new, successful cleaning method or even a previously unanticipated attribution or date for a painting.

    In the UK, there are three postgraduate paintings conservation programmes: Hamilton Kerr Institute Cambridge University, Courtauld Institute of Art and University of Northumbria. The course at Essex lends itself well to continuing into paintings conservation, but it is also possible to follow on to any type of fine art conservation and material study. There are conservation courses offered in universities in Europe and the rest of the world and it is common for students to study abroad or carry out their internships abroad. This facilitates sharing of information across the profession, and provides opportunities to meet and collaborate with people from all over the world.

    What advice would you give to new students?

    If the idea of continuing your academic career while putting your knowledge to practical use appeals to you, this is a very rewarding career, and if you are thrilled by solving riddles, or you are excited about finding things that no one else has ever seen, you will not be disappointed. One day when I was an intern at the Rijksmuseum, one of the Rembrandts came up to the studio for a condition check. There was much excitement as we all crowded around the table to take our turns looking through the microscope at luxuriant, unctuous brushstrokes and sparkling pigment particles. To a paintings conservator, the material object is the reward of the pursuit and understanding of art.

  • Doris Pearce, Adult Programmes Officer, National Portrait Gallery (BA and MA History of Art)

    Picture of Doris Pearce, BA and MA History of Art graduate.

    When I left Essex I began an internship at Tate Britain in their education department, using my knowledge of art history and experience of teaching on the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Colchester Institute which I did whilst completing my BA and MA in modern art history at Essex.

    From this internship I successfully started work as an assistant administrator and then was able to assist with events and activities organised by the education department. When a maternity cover contract was available I was ready with the necessary experience for the job of Assistant Curator: Adult Programmes. This job involved the planning and delivery of a range of educational events for the Gallery's adult audience, from talks and discussions, to workshops and Late at Tate.

    When I was ready for more responsibility I left Tate Britain to work for the National Portrait Gallery in a similar role and helped to introduce the successful Late Shift programme, as well as continue to plan the Gallery's popular day time talks, conferences and workshops.

    How have you used your degree and any other experience gained at university?

    My degree underpins most of what I do, apart from the confidence it gives me in the understanding of art and the history it is intertwined with. As I work with the interpretation of art on a daily basis the degree is essential.

    What do find most interesting about what you do now?

    I really enjoy working with curators and the collection and exhibitions to create a programme of events which helps to explain, reveal and engage with the works on the walls. At the National Portrait Gallery there is a vast range of opportunities to work with ideas and histories surrounding people, art and society which means I am never bored.

    What tips would you give to recent graduates who are looking for work?

    Be enthusiastic - it's never too soon to start building a good reputation. Use all your experience intelligently. I always feel that the years of waitressing and bar work have been invaluable to my career as it has helped me to work with the public and negotiate busy workloads.

  • Rachel Francis, Assistant curator, Victoria and Albert Museum (BA History of Art)

    Picture of Clare Francis, BA Art History graduate.

    I knew from quite early on that I wanted to pursue a career in the museums sector. Looking back now I wasn't anywhere near as prepared as I should have been and having graduated in 2001 I spent the first four years in the finance industry. It wasn't until I managed to secure a volunteer placement at the National Maritime Museum that I really began to understand the sector. My time as a volunteer at the NMM and the organisational skills I gained in the finance industry helped me to secure my first museum job at the Imperial War Museum - I was able to demonstrate that I had worked in a museum environment in my own free time and that I was serious about trying to pursue a career in the sector. I have been at the Victoria and Albert Museum since 2006 and I am now working as an Assistant Curator in the Prints Section of the Word & Image Department.

    I consider my degree and all the jobs I have done since I left university as contributing to my current career path in some way.

    What do find most interesting and rewarding about what you do now?

    The biggest rewards are opening displays you have put together and seeing people genuinely enjoy them. We literally spend hours scrutinising label text and layouts, agonise over what to keep in and what to take out. There is an enormous sense of duty and pride in everything that is done.

    What employability tips would you give to students?

    Make sure you explore your work options almost as soon as you start your degree course. If you are interested in museum and gallery work try and get as much experience as you can before you graduate and don't dismiss private galleries and auction houses as a starting point. You can't beat a bit of volunteering to get a good sense of what the sector is really like.

Our former PhD students

  • Former PhD Art History students

    Our PhD students have an excellent record of gaining employment in academic, research and curatorial positions at universities, galleries and other cultural institutions in the UK and across the world.

    • Isobel Whitelegg, Curator of public programmes, Nottingham Contemporary
    • Zanna Gilbert, Post-doctoral Fellow, Museum of Modern Art, New York
    • Humphrey Wine, Curator of French seventeenth and eighteenth century paintings, National Gallery, London
    • Briony Fer, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art, University College London
    • Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, Director and Chief Curator, Cisneros Collection
    • Lucy Bradnock, Lecturer, University of Nottingham
    • Simon Shaw-Miller, Professor, Department of History of Art, University of Bristol
    • David Hopkins, Professor, University of Glasgow
    • Shulamith Behr, Honorary Research Fellow, Courtauld Institute
    • Christopher Short, now Senior Lecturer, University of Cardiff
    • Andrés Montenegro, Curatorial Assistant, Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA)
    • Colin Rhodes, Dean, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney
    • Amna Malik, Lecturer, Slade School of Art, University of London
    • Dorothy Rowe, Senior Lecturer, University of Bristol
    • Claire Bishop, Associate Professor, The Graduate Centre, City University of New York
    • Michael White, Reader, University of York
    • Jorella Andrews, Head of Department, Goldsmiths, University of London
    • Caspar Pearson, Lecturer, University of Essex
    • Jonathon Vickery, Lecturer, University of Warwick
    • Oriana Baddeley, Professor of Art History and Dean of Research, The Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation, University of the Arts London
    • Stephen Moonie, Associate Lecturer in Art History, Newcastle University
    • Valerie Fraser, Visiting Fellow, University of Essex
    • Tania Costa Tribe, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
    • Adrian Locke, Exhibitions Curator, Royal Academy of Arts
    • Joanne Harwood, Director, Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA)
    • Mathew Bowman, Lecturer, University of Essex and Colchester Institute
    • Sarah Demelo, Collections Assistant, Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA)
    • Marta Camisassa, Professor, Federal University of Viçosa, Belo Horizonte
    • Simon Richards, Lecturer, University of Leicester
    • Maria Clara Bernal Associate Professor, University of the Andes, Bogotá
    • Cuauhtemoc Medina Gonzales, Head Curator, University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
    • Lisa Wade, Senior Lecturer, University of Essex
    • Angeliki Pollali, Professor of Art History, The American College of Greece (DEREE), Athens
    • Cecilia Fajardo Hill, Former Chief Curator at Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach
    • Margaret Iversen, University of Essex
    • Jim Walsh, Chief Executive Officer, Conway Hall, London
    • James Maxwell Stevenson, Learning and Development Advisor, University of Essex
    • Merav Yerushalmy, Lecturer, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

More humanities graduate profiles

Read more profiles about successful graduates from our Faculty of Humanities.

Undergraduate study

Undergraduate study

Undergraduate study in art history at Essex offers a unique combination of the historical and theoretical study of art, visual culture and curating from the renaissance to the present.

Postgraduate study

Postgraduate study

We are internationally recognised as a leading centre of postgraduate study in art history and curatorial studies, both at Masters and PhD level.

Our academic staff

Professor Margaret Iversen

Our academic staff are internationally recognised for their expertise across a range of areas in art history. Find out more about their interests by reading their staff profiles.

UROP placements

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Our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme gives you the chance to help an academic with a research project. You'll learn new skills to enhance your CV and get paid a bursary.