Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Meet our graduates: Katherine Irving

A film programmer and educator, Katherine completed our Film Studies MSc in 2014 and is now based in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She also teaches at Boston College.

Katherine Irving is a film programmer and educator whose areas of interest include gender studies, cinematic emotion, spectatorship, and American Independent film.

Photo of Katherine Irving
Katherine Irving. Image © Alec Tisdale.

Originally from Vermont, near the Canadian border in New England, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Illustration from Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts before a gallery internship in her senior year drew her into the world of museums and curation.

It was while working in ticket sales at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MFA) that Katherine became interested in film, frequenting film screenings at MFA and in other art houses in Boston.

As she describes it, “I worked my way up to a manger position in Visitor Services at the Museum, but I wanted to be a film curator. To that end, I left for Edinburgh in 2013 to earn my Master’s degree”.

Making spaces for film exhibition more inclusive and inviting

Ten years on from her first role at MFA, and having completed her MSc in Film Studies and worked as House Manager of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Katherine is back at the Museum as Manager and Assistant Programmer of Film and Video.

“I work with the Curator of Film to select films that screen in the Museum’s cinema, and I write film synopses and short essays for the Museum’s website. I also work closely with the Public Relations and Marketing departments to plan and execute promotional efforts.”

“During my time in Edinburgh, I gained an expanded vocabulary and new confidence to articulate my thoughts about film. These skills are invaluable in my current job.”

“As a programmer, my mission is to make spaces for film exhibition more inclusive and inviting, eschewing the culture of exclusivity that haunts museums and art house theaters.”

Using film as a lens to better understand ourselves

In addition to her role at MFA, Katherine is also on the faculty of Boston College where she teaches a class on American Independent Film, “working to give students the tools to decode complex films".

In this role, as in her position at the Museum, she is inspired by the teaching staff at Edinburgh, so “instead of focusing solely on the film industry and the processes of filmmaking, I take a more philosophical approach... using film as a lens to better understand our own minds and the world around us.”

“The Film Studies team in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) helped me to develop a kind of second sight; I learned to see things in films that had been previously invisible to me, especially the ideological messages embedded in mainstream films. I realized that the dominant narratives in these films had affected my perception of myself and the world, especially when it came to gender roles, race, and the myth of uncomplicated or self-completing romantic love. At the same time, there are alternative films (art films and independent films) that challenge these narratives and force us to confront them. My professors helped me to discover and decode some of these more challenging films.”

Asked about her biggest achievements, she says “I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in incorporating more female-driven narratives into our programming at the Museum. I’ve also made an effort to become more comfortable with speaking in public, which was once a real struggle for me. I’m beginning to conquer that fear after years of forcing myself to speak on stage and lead post-film discussions.”

What inspires me or keeps me going? Sharing my love of film with others!

Katherine Irving, film programmer and educatorKatherine graduated with an MSc in Film Studies in 2014

Are you interested in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh?

Our one-year MSc in Film Studies explores crucial concepts in the development of film theory and film-philosophy, with an emphasis on European and American auteur cinema. The programme can also be completed on a part-time basis over two years.

Find out more about our Film Studies MSc

Related links

Read an interview with Katherine on The Artery [external website]