BA in Art History

Tenni Littlewhiteman, 2022

Tenni Littlewhiteman

Why did you choose art history as a major?

Ever since I was a child, I was fascinated with learning about cultural differences through aspects of art. My first experience in understanding our multifaceted world, outside of a classroom, was in a fine and performing arts festival in Washington D.C during the 1990s, celebrating a variety of cultures. After that, I’d find any reason to go to a museum to learn more and more about the diversity of people and art.  Even though I pursued a career in the U.S Air Force at age 18, that passion for art and history never left me. I later made the life-changing decision to pursue my personal interests and go to college and dive into the realm of art and dance after I finished my military service.

What was your career path after graduation?

After receiving my B.A, I started my career in the 6-month Veterans Curation Program, where I trained and worked with Native American and historical artifacts with other military veterans under the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. In this program I gained new skills in archives and artifact sorting and rehousing, and I found a new love for artifact photography. My favorite was photographing ancient and historic ceramics. 

My 6 months in the program recently ended and I'm now a new and full-time employee with a digital imaging company. My first project has me working in the Library of Congress! I get to work with the transcript department in digitizing the NAACP's historical maps, photos, newspaper clippings, letters, etc. for inventory and online public access. After this, I get to move on to more projects, most likely with other libraries or the Smithsonian.

How do you think being an art history major at Mason prepared you for your career?

Mason’s Art History department amplified my love and excitement for art and history. I engaged and found deeper meanings in historical and new works of art, understanding how various concepts at work in pieces connect with countless aspects of people and society. I learned how to critically think and philosophize on the connection between myself, the world, and the purpose of different works of art. I also learned how the art world has developed throughout history, and I appreciated understanding how history and art deeply correlate with each other. I took many amazing classes that helped me develop professional skills, like researching, writing, presenting at conferences, and creating my own works of art.

Because of the knowledge, mindset, and skills I developed through my major, I am able to do amazing things in my career so far such as artifact photography, historical research, finding new information on artifacts that I’ve worked on in the lab, producing fun and educational social media posts for my job, and presenting in public showcases.

One of my favorite things is working with photography. My first connection with photography came from a “History of Photography” course at GMU. My passion grew stronger after doing artifact photography at the Veteran’s Curation Program, and led to my current job in digital imaging.  

Any advice to give to current Mason students?

During your educational development, keep in mind that the journey itself is just as important as the destination. You are continuing your path to self-discovery and it’s important to challenge yourself, humble yourself, and find lessons and connections that truly make you happy through your journey.