School of Humanities and Performing Arts

MA Archival Practice

The MA Archival Practice programme is taught in partnership with archival professionals from The Box, Plymouth. It will give you practical experience of the archive: through work-based learning in local archives, ranging from manuscripts to film, sound and digital archives, you will explore current and practical issues such as fund-raising, the varied needs of users, and how to communicate through outreach and marketing.

This programme is also available to study part time (6238).

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Careers with this subject

The MA Archival Practice is designed to prepare you for a range of archive and related jobs, including posts with local government, national archives, museums, universities, businesses and charities.

Key features

  • Benefit from a programme taught in partnership with archive specialists from Plymouth City Council's Museums and Galleries Archives.
  • Develop links with local record offices and other archives – work-based learning is a key feature of the MA.
  • Meet practical and current needs (fund-raising, employment law, archival and digital skills) for a range of employment options in the archive and heritage sector with our range of core and optional modules.
  • The MA is designed to be a professional qualification and is aligned to the Archives and Records Association’s new competencies.
  • Prepare yourself for a range of archive and related jobs, including posts with local government, national archives, museums, universities, businesses and charities.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • You can study MA Archival Practice full time over one year, or part time over two years. 

    Your studies will consist of six modules, of which five are core modules: The Management of Archives; Audiences and Users in Archives; Placement; Business of Archives; Dissertation 

    You’ll supplement these with an optional module where you select the areas of archival practice that you interest you from a range of options including Palaeography; Display and Interpretation; Sound and Vision.

    Core modules:

    • ARCHI700 The Management of Archives
    • ARCHI701 Audiences and Users in Archives
    • ARCHI702 Placement
    • ARCHI703 Business of Archives
    • ARCHI704 Dissertation in Archival Practice

    Optional modules:

    • ARCHI705 Palaeography
    • ARCHI706 Sound and Vision
    • ARCHI707 Display and Interpretation

    Continual Professional Development


    ARCHI703 Business of Archives can be taken separately as either a credit-rated and non-credit rated module, by professionals or para-professionals wishing to enhance their competencies in archives and records.

    Pre-programme placement

    You will need to undertake a period (minimum 30 days / 120 hours) of paid or voluntary employment in an archive or records service, or have experience in a post where archive or record management is a substantial responsibility, prior to starting the programme. We are very happy to help with finding a suitable pre-programme placement. If you would like to discuss options please contact Rebecca.Wickes@plymouth.gov.uk or Anne.Morgan@plymouth.gov.uk.

    Core modules
    • ARCHI700 The Management of Archives

      This module concerns core professional activities and principles underpinning collections development. Students will be introduced to: the definition of archives, functions of archive services, the purpose and value of archives; the professional and legislative landscape for archive keeping, and moral and ethical responsibilities. Core elements of professional archival management e.g., acquisition, appraisal and description, are supplemented by study of `physical defence' of archives; preservation policies and digital preservation methods; environmental monitoring; and disaster recovery planning.

    • ARCHI701 Audiences and Users in Archives

      This examines audiences and needs; and the ways archives and heritage assets are used, experienced and offered. It considers opportunities / challenges from diversity, barriers to access, research room, physical and virtual exhibitions and programme or educational project delivery. The environment for resource-user relationships is explored in terms of collaboration, community engagement, user-participation, volunteering and `citizen archivists'. The roles of new technologies (including those associated with `big data') and social media are explored. Policies, standards and evaluation are studied as critical to access and audience-engagement strategy.

    • ARCHI702 Archival Practice Placement

      This module provides the student with placement opportunities organised by / or approved the MA Programme Leader in partnership with Plymouth City Council, at Plymouth and West Devon Records Office, South West Film and Television Archive and with local heritage sites. The placements will be designed to provide practical experience in several aspects including the search room, collections, or visitor-experience facing aspects of the site. Work-based learning will relate this module to aspects of management, business, audience and users explored in the other core modules, both experientially / practically; and through observation.

    • ARCHI703 The Business of Archives

      This module addresses the dynamic and changing position that many modern day archival professionals find themselves in within their organisations. Being able to think critically and strategically about the management of resources, governance and stakeholder relations, buildings, products, people, technology, financing and budgets, sustainability through the development of commercial revenue, and advocating for higher profile through partnerships, are crucial skills. Key self-management skills such as time management, presentation and report writing, team working and project management are developed through this module.

    • ARCHI704 Archival Practice Dissertation

      A dissertation between 15,000 and 20,000 words on an archival-focused topic. The assessment incorporates a 10% project proposal phase in semester 2, assessed by the dissertation supervisor assigned to the student. There will be preliminary discussions about the module in the MA induction at the start of semester 1 and informal conversations through semester 1 for Full Time students (and in Year 2 for Part Time students).

    Optional modules
    • ARCHI705 Palaeography

      This module considers the development of historic handwriting (palaeography) from the medieval period, examining some specific scripts and documents (diplomatic) types, establishing the principles of transcribing and editing manuscripts. Archaic dating practices, abbreviations and other elements of manuscripts commonly encountered in the archives, will also be studied. Manuscript material from the Plymouth collections will form the core of the material which will be read (with some training in reading Latin provided) and transcribed by students in a module that is designed to apply the theory to this important archival practice.

    • ARCHI706 Sound and Vision (film, photographic and audio archives)

      This module is concerned with the care and management of film, sound and photographic collections; how they can be used as an effective resource for learning and engagement; best practice around preservation and storage; digitisation and cataloguing, adhering to specific description standards; the complexities of copyright, licensing, orphaned works and third part content and; the provision of content for audiences and for programming, exhibition, broadcast and production purposes.

    • ARCHI707 Display and Interpretation in Archives

      This module develops a critical understanding of how heritage organisations address their public role through displays and interpretation opportunities. Students will gain understanding about audiences and audience needs and perspectives and develop hands-on experience of a range of contemporary archive and museum practices including curating an exhibition, development of partnerships and collaborations, education, outreach and learning objectives, management and care of assets within an exhibition, marketing, evaluation and capturing data from audiences to support sustainability and legacy.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA Archival Practice programme specification 6237

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

A 2:1 or first class BA (Hons) degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification) and a period (minimum 30 days / 120 hours) of paid or voluntary employment in an archive or records service, or experience in a post where archive or record management is a substantial responsibility. Applicants meeting these criteria are interviewed by a practising member of the profession in the selection process.

We are very happy to help with finding a suitable pre-programme placement. If you would like to discuss options or if you have any questions about the programme or the admissions process, please contact rebecca.emmett@plymouth.ac.uk.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2018 2019
Home/EU £7,500 £7,725
International £14,000 £14,400
Part time (Home/EU) £420 £430
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

Alumni loyalty reward for postgraduate study

From September 2018, the University applies a discretionary alumni reward where alumni meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • a 20 per cent discount on home/EU tuition fees
  • or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.

PGCE programmes, Master of Architecture, MEng, ResM and postgraduate research degrees are not included in this reward.

For further details, and contact information, please review our alumni discount policy.


You may be eligible for a discount of £2,000. Please contact the programme lead, Dr Rebecca Emmett, for details.

The University applies a discretionary alumni reward (percentage discount on tuition fees) where alumni meet certain criteria on particular courses. For more information, please contact tuitionfees@plymouth.ac.uk.

Find out more about funding options for postgraduates.   

How to apply

Applying for postgraduate taught study

The University aims to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Postgraduate Admissions and Enquiries team are on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by Plymouth University, please visit our Disability Services website. Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

If you would like any further information please contact the Postgraduate and Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Email: admissions@plymouth.ac.uk 


Submitting an application

Apply for postgraduate study using our online postgraduate application form.

Alternatively you can download a copy of the application form to be submitted by hand, by post or via email with accompanying attachments.

Additional guidance information can also be downloaded on how to fill in the postgraduate application form.

If you have questions about the programme or the admissions process, please contact Dr Rebecca Emmett.

Applying for postgraduate research study

The University aims to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. The Doctoral College are available to answer any queries on our postgraduate research degrees. If  you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by Plymouth University, please visit our Disability Services website. Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk

If you would like any further information please contact the Doctoral College:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 587640

Email: doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk


Submitting an application

Apply for postgraduate study using our online postgraduate application form.

Alternatively you can download a copy of the application form to be submitted by hand, by post or via email with accompanying attachments.

Additional guidance information can also be downloaded on how to fill in the postgraduate application form.

Archival practice events

The Active Archive – Developing the new Archival Gallery at The Box

Tuesday 27 November 2018, 2-5pm

This special event for current and prospective MA Archival Practice students will give you the opportunity to learn about the development of a dedicated archival gallery within the new flagship heritage centre in Plymouth, The Box.

Attendees will be taken on a guided hard hat tour of The Box, gaining an insight into the scope and of this exciting project, which will bring together the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, South West Film and Television Archive and South West Image Bank, on one exciting heritage hub.

Archivist Debbie Watson will discuss the design and development of the Active Archive gallery and offer first hand insights into the process behind the creation of new archival displays, the place of the gallery within the wider context of The Box, and the challenges the team have encountered.

After the event prospective students will have the opportunity to meet and discuss the course with current students and staff.

Places on the tour are limited, and once full, places will be assigned to the lecture only. To book your place please email rebecca.emmett@plymouth.ac.uk with your name and shoe size.

Hard hat tour of the box

On completion of The Box in Spring 2020, the MA Archival Practice will be based inside the new arts and heritage centre, built on the site of the former Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and St Luke’s Church buildings.

Until then, MA Archival Practice students will have the opportunity to work with archival professionals from institutions including the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office and the South West Film and Television Archive, as they prepare to move their collections into the new, purpose built central archive.

To get a sense of scale of this undertaking, prospective students had the opportunity to join a representative of Willmott Dixson, the building contractors for The Box, as well as members of the MA Archival Practice team, for a special behind the scenes hard hat tour of construction site.

CPD module: The Business of Archives

The Business of Archives is a 30 credit CPD module which addresses the dynamic and changing position that many modern day archival professionals find themselves in within their organisations. Participants have the opportunity to work with industry professionals with wide-ranging expertise, based within Plymouth’s new heritage centre, The Box.

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of issues in the business of archives from management of resources, governance and stakeholder relations, buildings, products, people, technology, financing and budgets, to sustainability through commercial revenue. It also provides the opportunity for students to further develop key self-management skills through team work, presentation and report writing.

Overview of Module Content:

  • Strategizing
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Advocacy
  • Funding / fundraising
  • The Law and HR processes
  • Management of people: leadership and teamwork.
  • Operational management: security, premises, contract and supply
  • Risk analysis
  • Sustainability: retail and commerciality

This module is delivered through 10 three-hour sessions comprising of lectures and practitioner-led workshops. Participants are encouraged to take part in the development of funding presentations, to be delivered to peers, practitioners and stakeholders in the second half of the module.

The module is offered within Semester two, commencing at the end of January.

Module Fees: 30 credit module – £750

For further information about this module please contact rebecca.emmett@plymouth.ac.uk


Archival practice resources

The library has access to key journals in archival studies and management; and specialist texts in relation to palaeography and other topics.

This degree is run in partnership with Plymouth City Council, drawing on experts in the archives sector, and with access to archival collections and facilities at Plymouth West Devon Record Office, and audio-visual and photographic collections.

The resource and teaching space will eventually be housed in The Box, Plymouth. Currently under construction on the site of the former Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and St Luke's Church buildings, this brand new arts and heritage centre is set to open in spring 2020, right next to the main campus of the University of Plymouth.

Plymouth Borough records: Letters Patent (charter), 11 May 1554

This is the oldest original charter in the possession of the Corporation and is illuminated. Also referred to as the Queen Mary charter.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)

Plymouth Borough records: Receiver's accounts, 1486-1560

The Old Audit book, including a reference to a venison pasty recipe.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)

Plymouth: Stoke Damerel Parish, Devonport, Baptisms, 1859-1878

Showing entry for Robert Falcon Scott, baptised on 30th June 1868.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)

Henry de Tracy, Charter, c1190

This is the oldest document at PWDRO.

© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)