Student exhibition showcases new route to higher education

By Press Office

The first partnership project of its kind to help widen participation in higher education in Scotland will be showcased in a new student exhibition, starting at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow on the 3rd August.

Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh has teamed up with Glasgow Association for Mental Health (GAMH) and Glasgow Open Museum (GOM) to provide adult learners with an opportunity to learn about sociology and art. The project encourages the participants to explore sociological explanations of identity, community and society by engaging with, and interpreting a wide range of art and artefacts from the Museum’s Collection.

All the QMU associate students enrolled on the project have benefited from the support of GAMH in the past and most have been out of formal education for several years.

Since February, 12 adult learners from across Glasgow have undertaken an introductory sociology module with QMU. The QMU associate students have been learning about sociological theories of identity, community and society. They have also interacted with art and artefacts from the Open Museum’s archives to help them explore their understanding of sociological concepts.

The students selected images of art and artefacts associated with a broad range of sociological themes, including family, social class, poverty, social exclusion, gender, sexuality and social stigma. Highlights of the exhibition include images of work by Scottish artist, Andrew Hay, and English artist, Grayson Perry.

The new exhibition, entitled ‘Experts by Experience’, will display students’ interpretations of the art as an example of the positive and powerful impact which community-based learning can have for participants and local communities. 

QMU has a growing reputation for taking the study of sociology beyond the University walls, and the project is an example of this.  It also illustrates QMU’s commitment to the development of Public Sociology, which has an emphasis on engaging with local communities through experiential learning, and which sees QMU’s own undergraduate students having opportunities to participate in a range of community engagement programmes including working with charities, voluntary organisations and community-based learning initiatives.

John R Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at QMU, said: “The exhibition, which is designed by the students, offers a unique opportunity for each individual to mobilise their own sociological imagination in interpreting a piece of art. In so doing, the students have raised critical questions about a wide range of social issues which they have personal experience of, or which affects the communities within which they live.”

John continued: “Our ambition is for current participants to act as mentors by helping and encouraging future participants to get the most out of the project.  We hope that many of the students will feel inspired to continue with their studies in Sociology and other related fields.”

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor Archie Graham, said: “I congratulate everyone on their achievement and hope they are rightly proud of the exhibition that’s been created.

Glasgow has one of the finest museum collections in Europe, a collection that belongs to the people of Glasgow.  So I am encouraged by the work the Open Museum has been doing with Queen Margaret University and the Glasgow Association of Mental Health, to use the city’s art to engage people in learning in this innovative way.

At Glasgow Life we strive to inspire our citizens to lead richer lives through culture and learning.  This project is a fantastic illustration of how we can work with others to break down barriers, which might have previously hindered learning, and allow people to flourish.  I wish this group the very best for continued learning and I am confident that sharing their experience will inspire others to begin their own journey and enjoy exploring the world at large and all that has to offer.”

Jenny Graydon, Chief Executive of GAMH, said: “The work highlighted in this exhibition represents not only personal academic achievement but also an important stage in the students' recovery journey.  The participants have seen beyond the limitations placed on them by social attitudes to mental health.”

The exhibition will be rolled out across other civic venues and public locations across Glasgow and Edinburgh over the next year, including the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Queen Margaret University.

The project is supported by the Scottish Funding Council and Interface.

Notes to Editor

Queen Margaret University (QMU)

QMU will launch Scotland’s first BSc degree in Public Sociology in September 2015.  The QMU sociology team also offers two Sociology degree programmes - the BSc single honours programme in Public Sociology and the BSc joint honours programme in Psychology & Sociology. 

Glasgow Open Museums

The Open Museum is Glasgow Museums’ outreach service

The Open Museum is based at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.  It takes Glasgow's museum collections beyond the museum walls and out into the community, reaching many people who for a variety of reasons may not regularly visit any of Glasgow’s 9 civic museums, or to further engage those who do.  There are object handling kits, displays and exhibitions available for loan.  Among the 4,000 objects on offer, you can find a hippo skull, a triple mousetrap and an ancient Egyptian necklace!   It’s a free service that allows groups, venues and community event organisers in Glasgow to borrow museum objects and create displays.

Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC)

Glasgow Museums has around 1.4 million objects in its collection, it is one of the finest museum collections in Europe and it all belongs to the people of Glasgow.  Like most museums only a small proportion is on display at any one time.  However, Glasgow is different in that it has Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC), which is the main store for the museums' collections when they're not on display at our venues.  Museum stores are rarely accessible to the public GMRC is different – you can explore this very special building and its’ collections through a wide range of tours, talks and activities for all ages, including school visits and events for families with children.  It is FREE to visit GMRC, but all visits must be booked in advance.

GMRC is a vast building with rooms full of fantastic objects, from animals to armour, fine art to fossils, and much, much more. The main collections stored here are Archaeology, Art and Painting, Arms and Armour, Natural History, Transport and Technology and World Cultures.  The 17 purpose-built and environmentally controlled storage ‘pods’ house around 800,000 objects.  Glasgow is not the only city to have a store like this, but our store is modern, purpose built, accessible and exceptional.

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