Joanne Hughes, Class of 2021

Joanne Hughes, Class of 2021

Cultural mediator and Guide | Graduated from the dual Master's degree in History at Sciences Po and the École du Louvre
  • Joanne Hughes, Graduated from the dual Master's degree Sciences Po/ École LouvreJoanne Hughes, Graduated from the dual Master's degree Sciences Po/ École Louvre

Can you tell us about your academic background?

After obtaining both the literary baccalaureate and the German Abitur through the AbiBac programme, I joined the Franco-German campus of Sciences Po in Nancy. The multidisciplinary curriculum in the humanities and social sciences taught there allowed me to build a solid foundation of general knowledge while also freeing me to focus on humanities.

During the second year of my Bachelor's degree, I was admitted to the dual Master's degree programme in research at Sciences Po and the École du Louvre. As part of the dual degree prerequisite programme, I spent my third year studying abroad in the European Art History Department at the Rupprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany.

On my return to France, I took a year out from my studies at Sciences Po to attend the third year of the École du Louvre. During this year, I acquired a broad knowledge of the history of art from the modern period to the present day, while taking a specialised course in early Christian and Byzantine art.

After completing the year at the École du Louvre, I simultaneously entered the first year of a Master's degree in History at the Sciences Po School of Research and the first year of a Master's degree at the École du Louvre. After two years – a highlight of which was writing a research paper, co-supervised by the two institutions (*), on the aesthetic, political, and religious issues surrounding the mosaic decoration of London’s Westminster Cathedral at the turn of the 20th century – I was awarded a dual Master's degree in History and Art History from Sciences Po and the École du Louvre.

How did your interest in the history of art begin?

As part of the literary stream I took in high school, I was given the opportunity to take a specialist class in art history for five hours a week. Thanks to this module, I went on a study trip to Rome and Florence and produced a report focused in part on Orientalism and the reception of Antiquity in modern art. This introduced me to the pleasure of conducting research into art and is how I came up with the idea of joining the dual degree with the École du Louvre when I applied to Sciences Po.

How was your experience of the Sciences Po / École du Louvre dual degree?

From the moment I was admitted to the dual degree prerequisite programme in the second year of my Bachelor's degree, art history was a central part of my academic curriculum. The year in Heidelberg and the year I spent entirely at the École du Louvre gave me a very solid foundation in art history, I discovered new fields of research, such as Byzantine art, which continues to fascinate me.

The dual Master's programme itself then focused on related disciplines as well as on the methodological skills essential to research in the humanities and social sciences. I participated in seminars on historiography, museology, the history of museums and collections, and cultural mediation, while learning about documentary research methods, archival work, and how to write a research paper. During the two years of the Master's degree, my schedule was arranged to allow me to study at both institutions simultaneously.

What did your years of study at the Sciences Po School of Research and the École du Louvre bring you?

Studying for the dual degree allowed me to benefit from the content of two demanding and complementary courses: knowledge related to art history and the fields of museums and heritage on the one hand, historiographical and critical knowledge, and the methodological tools to confront contemporary political and social issues on the other.

What is your current role?

At present, I work as a cultural mediator and guide-lecturer in the museum sector, and in parallel, as an external mediator for the Louvre Museum. In this role I design and lead guided tours and educational and creative workshops for different types of audiences (families, young people, disadvantaged members of the public).

I wanted to go into cultural mediation initially because I enjoy sharing my passion for art and talking about it with people from different backgrounds. Eventually, I would like to link the mediation activity to research and collection management roles in a museum. With this objective in mind, I plan to continue my art history research at the doctoral level, before aiming for the civil service exams in the field of heritage conservation.

What were the main stages in planning your career?

Alongside my studies on the Nancy campus, I was involved in the student project Le Plus Grand Musée de France (The Biggest Museum in France) in partnership with La Sauvegarde de l'Art français, which works to identify, restore, protect and publicise endangered elements of cultural heritage. For me, this experience was an initiation to the challenges of heritage conservation, at the same time allowing me to meet actors in this field, both public and private, and to develop my project management skills.

At the end of the first year of my Bachelor's degree, I spent a summer as a volunteer at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. This was my first experience behind the scenes of such an institution, and I was fortunate to be able to contribute to a wide variety of projects, such as developing activities for visitors and setting up a temporary exhibition. Between the end of my Bachelor's degree and the start of the Master's programme, I also did a more professional internship in the conservation department of the Musée d'Orsay, where I learned the day-to-day business of managing a collection. These experiences reinforced my desire to work in the museum sector.

Finally, as part of the Master's degree, I joined the team of a group project in partnership with the Château de Fontainebleau around the organisation of the 10th Festival of Art History. The project aimed to attract audiences with little access to culture and to accompany them during their visit. At the same time, I undertook a professional training module for tour guides at the École du Louvre. Through these two experiences, I discovered the world of cultural mediation from the dual perspectives of programming and event organisation. From that moment on, I worked on a plan to link research, conservation and mediation in my future career. 

How have your studies contributed to the position you hold today?

The knowledge of history and art history that I developed during my studies is a foundation for my tours and mediation work, and for communicating an interest in art and heritage to as many people as possible. Through the tour guide training offered by the École du Louvre I also acquired the necessary skills to design and lead such tours.

In addition, my education at Sciences Po and the École du Louvre has given me intellectual discipline, organisational skills, and a great capacity for adaptation, which are essential assets in my current job.

Would you have any advice to give to a student who wants to go into your current field?

Listen to yourself before anything else – research or cultural mediation are not necessarily for everyone, but if you are curious, find pleasure in sharing and passing on knowledge, and are passionate about your field of study, then don't hesitate to give it a go!
The opportunities offered by the dual degree with the École du Louvre are varied, and continue after completing the research programme. The Sciences Po programme also offers many opportunities to get involved in career-oriented projects and gain exposure to other fields, which should not be missed.


(*): Joanne Hughes won the Jury Prize in the “My Art History Thesis in 180 Seconds” competition for the  presentation of her thesis: “Dreaming Byzantium. The mosaics of Westminster Cathedral (London) in the context of the Byzantine Revival, late nineteenth - early twentieth century”, supervised by Laurence Bertrand Dorléac, Full Professor of Art History at Sciences Po and President of the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, and Isabelle Saint-Martin, Director of Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études.

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 [ January 2022 ]

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