MA Art History part 2

This module aims to broaden your understanding of ‘Art History’ in terms of methods, materials, spaces and sites of practice. It explores relationships between visual arts and the public realm by examining contexts within which art, architecture and design are situated and mediated, ranging from consideration of the professional practice of art historians, within and outside academia, to exploring public realms of print media and the built environment. Central to the module is the development of subject-specific research skills and practices, which build throughout the module towards the dissertation. 

Vocational relevance

This module offers excellent preparation for applying art historical training to various areas of employment, as it explicitly addresses issues surrounding the public role and presentation of the visual arts in the context of contemporary art and heritage policy and practice. When combined with the art history part 1 module, the qualification provides the skills, knowledge and awareness not only for scholarly research but also for employment in the creative arts and in the area of cultural policy. 


A844 is a compulsory module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

The first part of this module is structured around the following four blocks, each utilising clusters of texts, images, and sound and vision in a similar way to MA in Art History part 1 (A843). The second part involves proposing, researching and writing the dissertation. 

Block 1: Putting Standpoints into Practice
This block draws together issues from across MA Art History part 1 (A843) by exploring some ‘real world’ implications, focusing on controversies within the field of professional practice and the intersection between academic art history and other areas with which art historians engage. It completes the turn from the investigation of art history through art-historical writing (explored in A843) towards debates around the everyday practices of art history. You'll gain an awareness of professional practices in the field of art history and begin to envisage the possible implications of this for your dissertation research as well as potential career or community-related development. You'll be encouraged to discuss relevant experiences through online forums and tutorial activities. During your study of the block, you'll work on set texts and other sources, such as interviews and public documents related to the main, inter-related themes addressed by the following three blocks.

Block 2: The Image and its Publics
This block will use Jürgen Habermas’s notion of the public sphere to explore both individually and mass-produced images. It will pay close attention to the contexts of image-making: how and why images are created and circulated and how they are viewed. These issues will be considered in various historical contexts and in contemporary culture. The block will focus on how technological advancements alter the ways viewers engage with the original work of art and its reproductions. While Section 1 will provide a historical introduction to the reception and circulation of images, the later sections will examine the controversies that arose around issues of reproducibility in the age of mechanical reproduction, the advent of photography, and the role images play today in the digital age.

Block 3: Inhabiting Space
This block is informed by ‘the spatial turn’ in the humanities and will provide you with an in-depth analysis of three-dimensional design through exploring landscapes, buildings and interiors. It will introduce you to ideas of ‘space’ both as abstract form and as lived, everyday experience providing the spatial context of society and culture at various periods. It leads on from the previous block in examining issues of public and private but will extend the discussion from the context of print into that of the designed environment. The theme of how space is perceived and occupied according to gender will be a particular focus.

Block 4: Research in the Visual Arts
Drawing on the variety of ‘contexts’ presented in the module, the final block will bring together previous strands to extend the discussion of art history as a discipline beyond its traditional scope. More recent approaches have explored categories of the visual and material that have demystified the role of the artist and challenged the notion of what is an art object and who can produce art. The results of such practices will allow you to view visual and material culture as a broad field in which the categories of art include new media, reconsidered objects and makers, and art well beyond the gallery context.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. The module will be taught by means of online forums and tutorials. You will also receive tuition for your dissertation in the form of support with formulating your topic and comments on a draft chapter.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

MA Art History part 2 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

In order to study this module you must have successfully completed MA in Art History part 1 (A843)

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

The following texts are recommended as preliminary reading for this module:

  • Anderson, Benedict, (2006) Imagined Communities, London & New York, Verso  (ebook, online via the OU Library)
  • Aynsley, J. and Grant, C. (eds) (2006) Imagined interiors: representing the domestic interior since the Renaissance, London: V&A Publication. 
  • Boswell, David & Jessica Evans, eds., (1999) Representing the Nation: A Reader, London and New York, Routledge in association with The Open University
  • Conway, H. and Roenisch, R. (2004), Understanding Architecture, An introduction to architecture and architectural history, London, Routledge. 2nd ed.
  • Elkins, J. & Naef, M. (eds.) 2011. What is an Image?, University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Moxey, K. (2013). Visual Time. The Image in History, Durham and London, Duke University Press.
  • Mumford, L (1961, 1987), The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations and Its Prospects, London, Penguin. 
  • Schama, S. (2004) Landscape and Memory, London: Harper Perennial.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Oct 2025 £4960.00

Registration closes 12/09/24 (places subject to availability)

04 Oct 2025 Oct 2026 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/25

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2026.

Future availability

MA Art History part 2 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2026.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

All the necessary teaching is included in the study material, which is delivered online. Links to appropriate online journals and research databases are also provided via the OU Library. The Library provides access to a wide range of materials, including some ebooks.

You will need

You will need access to a research library, whether a university library or a good public library.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future. 

One of the learning outcomes for this module is for you to develop the ability to exercise powers of visual discrimination by direct engagement with works of art. If you are blind or severely partially sighted, you will experience difficulty in achieving this learning outcome. However, if you have a background in art history gained whilst usefully sighted, you will be able to draw upon this experience. Reproductions of works of art will be available in electronic format. You will be able to magnify these reproductions within the limits of standard computer applications, but no textual descriptions or alternative formats of reproductions will be available, and the use of a sighted assistant to interpret the works of art would conflict with the required learning outcome. If you are blind or partially sighted, you are encouraged to contact us for advice before registering for this module.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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