Liberal Arts - Visual Culture Research

Visual Culture Research banner

Note: This degree can be completed externally by combining a number of online and intensively delivered courses.

Visual Culture Research is a multi-disciplinary field combining the humanities and social scientific perspectives of anthropology, art theory and film studies. The program is unique in Australia, combining a dynamic range of conceptual and practical courses for a holistic learning experience. Bringing together internationally renowned ethnographic filmmakers, visual anthropologists and other scholars with visual culture expertise, the program offers a variety of emphases and options that can be modelled to suit individual student interest. Based in Australia’s national capital, the program enjoys close links twith Australia’s national cultural institutions, giving students access to important visual cultural collections, as well as exciting internship possibilities.
Visual Culture Research fosters in students a well-developed understanding of how visual culture figures in human societies, the necessary skill required to work with visual materials, and an appreciation of visual media as distinctive research methods. Graduates will achieve a high level of visual literacy — an ability to analytically grasp visual materials from a range of disciplinary perspectives, and an understanding of the key debates in visual studies. They will also develop a practical familiarity with a range of visual media and the relevant software for working with visual materials. Intensive courses in ethnographic film and digital media work are particular highlights of the program.

Programs available


Who Studies Visual Culture Research?

The program is designed to cater to the interests and needs of a range of potential candidates. These include:
  • graduates seeking to develop specialist practical and critical expertise in the field of visual culture as a pathway either to Higher Degree Research or a career working with visual culture collections
  • freelance and professional filmmakers, digital media producers, researchers looking to extend their understanding of critical and cross-cultural issues in dealing with visual culture
  • curators and collections managers wishing to undertake further study in the field of visual culture as part of their professional development
It is expected that some students will come to the program with a specific idea, theme or visual culture collection that they wish to explore. The flexible design of the program allows for a suite of courses to be tailored to such aims, and for particular research interests to be fostered through independent individually supervised projects.

Visual Culture Research students undertaking the intensive course Thinking with a Video Camera, Photo: Kim McKenzie, 2010.

Why ANU?

The Australian National University is home to award-winning ethnographic filmmakers and digital media producers, as well as internationally renowned scholars in the fields of visual anthropology and visual art. The program draws widely on this expertise, offering high quality on-site teaching. Students have the opportunity to participate in a dynamic range of extra-curricula programs including seminar series, discussion groups and regular film screenings.

Visual Culture Research is the only visual culture program on offer at an Australian university that combines multidisciplinary conceptual approaches and practical courses in the one program.

Collaborations with internationally respected cultural institutions including the National Film and Sound Archive, National Library of Australia, National War Memorial, National Archives of Australia and National Portrait Gallery provide unparalleled access to some of the most important visual culture collections in Australia, and foster an understanding of the integral role of visual research in collections management, exhibition and public outreach programs.

Related websites

Centre for Visual Anthropology
Digital Media Methods (course web page)


Internships and Professional Programs

Visual Culture Research students have the opportunity to learn on the job. Students may undertake up to 12 units of internship, which counts towards their degree and offers an excellent way to gain work experience. Internship courses are offered year-round, in semesters 1 and 2, and summer and winter sessions. The two courses may be taken over two semesters, or more intensively in one or two teaching periods. Students enrolled in the Master of Liberal Arts (Honours) (Visual Culture Research) also have the opportunity to undertake a more substantial professional development placement that counts toward their final assessment.

Career Opportunities

With an integrated focus on scholarly and practical methods in visual culture, graduates of the program are well placed to pursue careers with institutions that hold and manage visual culture collections, in government departments, in communication and public relations positions, in film making, or to pursue further research.

Student testimonials

For more student testimonials please go to the Centre for Visual Anthropology website.

The Masters of VCR at ANU allowed to me consolidate my specific interests in cultural geographies with a deeper appreciation of the theoretical implications of media technologies and communication in contemporary society. The interdisciplinary experience key to understanding visual cultures is strong in this course. I produced a research thesis on forms of cultural resistance to video surveillance, whilst engaging in workshops with new media producers, curators and academics who provided a suite of critical research methods and analytical approaches I've since found valuable in any communications based project work. I would recommend the course to anyone seeking to expand their scope of visual culture inquiry in a supportive and collaborative environment.
Cassandra Harris, graduate 2009

Other specialisations

Courses from each of the other specialisations may be taken as part of the degrees specialising in Visual Culture Research.  For more information about the courses available in each field go to: Cultural and Environmental Heritage, Museums and Collections and Writing, World Histories and Lives.

How to apply

Applicants should apply directly to the University for entry into this program. Online applications can be completed at ANU Apply Online  

Further details on graduate study at ANU are available at Graduate Study at ANU

Updated:  21 March 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications