Art History Major
What is Art History?
In Art History, we explore visual and material culture (artworks, design objects, mass communication forms, and the environments they inhabit) to better understand the meanings these works produce. We study how images and artifacts developed historically, how they circulate across the globe, and how they shape and are shaped by their aesthetic, social, political, economic, and religious contexts. Art and design history encourages students to develop visual analysis skills, argument construction, scholarly research, effective communication, and historical knowledge. As the field of art history is inherently cross-cultural and interdisciplinary, its study can powerfully illuminate the diverse and global worlds we inhabit and make apparent the integral relationships between art, design, and society.
Why Study Art History at Drexel?
Hands-On Learning in Our Vibrant Philadelphia Arts Community: The undergraduate Art History program incorporates Drexel's nationally renowned co-op experience through which students, while pursuing their degree, can work for six months in relevant professional contexts such as museums, galleries, auction houses, and other arts organizations. Philadelphia boasts a robust, exciting trove of museums, galleries, and non-profit spaces, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Barnes Foundation, Mural Arts, Institute of Contemporary Art, PAFA, The Fabric Workshop, and many more. Drexel University is home seven distinguished collections, including the Founding Collection of art and design, the Robert & Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, and the Polish Poster Collection, and it also stewards the Atwater Kent Collection, the City of Philadelphia’s extensive history collection. Drexel’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery, and the Rincliffe Gallery showcase diverse circulating exhibitions throughout the year. Through co-ops and coursework, the Art History program fosters a hands-on approach, through which students can enjoy the direct in-person study of objects. In addition to museum/gallery visits and work experience, students have curated exhibitions, led gallery tours, contributed to published exhibition catalogues, and written wall labels.
Robust Course Offerings: In addition to global surveys of ancient, early modern, modern, and contemporary art, we offer courses that provide deeper dives into specific regions and communities (courses like Latin American Art, African Art, Indigenous Arts, Asian Art and Culture, Art of Japan, Art of China, Northern Renaissance, and African-American Art). While these courses center geographic places and traditions, other classes are organized to engage a transregional and transdisciplinary topic (courses like Race and Visual Culture, Women in Art, Global Material Culture, Art and Revolution, Global Pop Art, and Monuments). We also have robust course offerings in histories of design, architecture, and costume/fashion. New courses are frequently developed to reflect updated pedagogy and critical topics.
Excellent Faculty: Our faculty publishes prize-winning scholarly research through books and articles that reflect their expertise in a wide variety of fields and subjects, including: race and nineteenth-century sculpture; Buddhist caves in India; U.S.-Latin American relations and art in the Cold War; decorative arts, class, and labor in America; Leonardo da Vinci; global cultural heritage; and twentieth-century fashion.
Mentorship: Each student is paired with a faculty mentor to help them navigate college life, career paths, and Philadelphia art worlds. Some students elect to conduct Independent Studies, working with a faculty mentor to pursue their own research interests and/or curate an exhibition of their choosing.
Careers in Art History
Careers in Art History are not limited to curators and professors. A whole world of career possibilities can be found across arts-related organizations like museums, galleries, auction houses, non-profits, publishers, libraries, and archives (see list below). Related fields include art law and art therapy. Students who study art history also go on to become lawyers, teachers, doctors, etc., and mobilize skills they acquired in art history (e.g. argument construction, critical reasoning, visual analysis, and verbal and written communication).
In Museums, Galleries, and Non-Profit Spaces:
- Collection Manager/Registrar
- Exhibition Designer
- Manager/Director of Education and Public Programing (programming for children and/or adults)
- Manager/Director of Communications and/or Marketing
- Development or Sales Associate
In Auction Houses:
- Area Specialist
- Marketing or Sales Associate/Director
- Client Relations Manager
What Skills Does Art History Help You Develop?
- Visual analysis
- Communication skills (writing and verbal)
- Argument construction
- Historical knowledge
- Research skills
- Critical reading skills
- Cultural knowledge and participation
Art History at Drexel: Paths of Study
At Drexel, we provide two distinct four-year undergraduate degrees in Art History: the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art History and Bachelor of Science (BS) in Art History, offering a flexible, thorough curriculum to enable students to tailor their coursework to fit their personal career aspirations. Both undergraduate art history degrees provide an excellent interdisciplinary liberal arts education with a sound foundation in the history of visual arts and a strong competence in writing, research and critical thinking. They prepare students for a variety of arts-related careers, graduate studies in the humanities, and professional programs. Core differences between the degrees are explained below.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) Degree in Art History: Students who want to make Art History their primary major pursue a BA, which involves 2 three-month co-ops, more art history electives, and a strong component of Arts and Humanities courses. This degree option prepares students to enter the professional world of art historians by exposing them to critical reasoning, philosophy, anthropology, literature, world cultures, and foreign languages.
See complete degree requirements and a BA in Art History sample plan of study here.
Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree in Art History (Art History as a Double Major): Students who wish to make Art History their secondary major pursue a BS, which was designed with great flexibility to enable students to pursue an additional degree in one of the University’s more than 80 majors without extending their time at the University. The program includes a combination of art history electives and general education requirements, and does not require a co-op taken in addition to the one required by the student’s other major.
See complete degree requirements and a BS in Art History sample plan of study here.
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