History and Art History
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

MA in History of Decorative Arts

The MA in the history of decorative arts is offered in partnership with The Smithsonian Associates. It presents students with the challenge of integrating the history of the decorative arts into the study of art history and cultural studies as a whole. Students take courses in decorative arts, design history and theory, material culture, and museology.

The program prepares students for employment at museums, historic organizations, and in the commercial art and design marketplace. It is also excellent preparation for a number of doctoral programs.

The University Catalog is the authoritative source for information on program requirements and courses. The Schedule of Classes is the authoritative source for information on classes scheduled for this semester. See the Schedule for the most up-to-date information and see Patriot web to register for classes. Requirements may be different for earlier catalog years. See the University Catalog archives.

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 48

Core Courses

ARTH 570 Proseminar in History of Decorative Arts 3
ARTH 571 Survey of Decorative Arts I 3
ARTH 572 Survey of Decorative Arts II 3
ARTH 630 Material Culture Studies 3
ARTH 640 European Decorative Arts 3
ARTH 650 Global Decorative Arts 3
ARTH 660 Museum Studies 3
ARTH 670 Design and Design History 3
Total Credits 24


Students choose electives in consultation with an advisor. Courses with variable topics may be repeated for credit when the topic varies. A total of 6 credits of independent study and 6 credits of internship each may be applied to the degree.

Students may apply 3 or 6 credits of thesis in place of 1 or 2 elective courses. Students who do not complete a thesis complete 24 elective credits and a comprehensive examination.

Select six to eight electives (18-24 credits) from the following: 18-24
Internship in Art History and the Decorative Arts
The Museum
Independent Study
Special Topics in Art History and the Decorative Arts
Theory of Decorative Arts
Topics in Individual Decorative Arts
Material Culture Studies
European Decorative Arts
Global Decorative Arts
Museum Studies
Design and Design History
Total Credits 18-24

Examination or Thesis

Students must successfully pass a comprehensive examination or complete a 3-6 credit thesis 3-6
Total Credits 3-6


The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to test the student’s familiarity with the important objects and literature relating to one major and one minor field. Fields are defined by country, medium, and century. The student is expected to be conversant with bibliographic references, be able to evaluate information critically, and be able to recognize objects, makers, and styles. The exam consists of a one-hour oral component on the major and minor fields followed by an essay on the major field.


A thesis requires a minimum of 1 semester. Students who undertake a 3-credit thesis take 3 fewer elective credits. Students who undertake a 6-credit thesis register for 3 credits the first semester and 3 credits the second semester; they take 6 fewer elective credits.

Once enrolled in ARTH 799 Master's Thesis, students are required to maintain continuous registration until the thesis is submitted to and accepted by the University Library. The continuous registration policy is specified in the Academic Policies section of the catalog.

ARTH 799 Master's Thesis 1-3
Total Credits 1-3
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