The MSt in Building History is designed to equip you with the knowledge, skills and methods required to underpin a career in building history research and applied building history (conservation, management, presentation), or to prepare for higher-level academic research on a related topic. It is structured so as to permit students to work while studying, and to prepare them for work in the sector if they are not already actively engaged.
The main formal elements of the course are the lectures, site visits and practical exercises. These are grouped into a series of core (mandatory) and optional modules making up the three residential courses; some revision lectures are also included in Examination Week. The three residential courses and the Examination Week will each be the subject of a full course programme, which will be circulated to you in advance of each session.
The lectures offer a framework of knowledge and insights into themes and specialisms of particular importance. They are almost invariably illustrated in PowerPoint and are supported by reading lists and reinforced in many cases by visits to buildings and sites of special relevance. Where possible you are encouraged to read up on topics in advance of lectures, using references in the Course Bibliography, and to ask questions while lecturers are present. Many lecturers will invite questions by email afterwards as well. The reading lists accompanying most lectures will offer further avenues for private study.
A special feature of the course is the high proportion of teaching time devoted to site visits. These visits allow students to experience at close quarters and three- dimensionally a range of historic buildings and landscapes with the aid of knowledgeable presenters, and to visit a number of workplaces, providing an understanding of the contexts in which building history is applied. The nature of the visits will vary with site conditions and course objectives: sometimes they will assume the form of a guided tour, sometimes they will provide an opportunity for more interactive engagement with historic fabric, and sometimes they will form the focus of specific activities.
At various points in the course you will be asked to undertake practical exercises, which may take the form of fieldwork or studio/workshop sessions. These give you the opportunity to put learning into practice, but more importantly they address a different range of issues from those customarily raised in lectures. There will be a heavy emphasis on developing good observational skills and the analytical, problem-solving skills that convert observations into robust interpretations. We will also give you the opportunity to try out some of the more fundamental techniques and approaches for recording historic buildings. While some are prone to view these as ‘mechanical arts’, intellectually inferior to writing and theorising, they are in fact integral to the process of understanding and articulating significance. They have the added benefit that they impose a salutary discipline, obliging you to look carefully at evidence and to consider the way buildings are put together.