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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.


To receive the MA in the history of decorative arts students must complete 48 graduate credits with a minimum GPA of 3.0. A maximum of 9 credits from other institutions may be transferred into this program or may be reduced based on a previously conferred graduate degree. Reduction or transfer of credit is subject to the approval of the director and the dean.

For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP .6 Graduate Policies.

Banner Code: LA-MA-HDA

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 48

Core Courses

ARTH 570Proseminar in History of Decorative Arts3
ARTH 571Survey of Decorative Arts I3
ARTH 572Survey of Decorative Arts II3
ARTH 630Material Culture Studies3
ARTH 640European Decorative Arts3
ARTH 650Global Decorative Arts3
ARTH 660Museum Studies3
ARTH 670Design and Design History3
Total Credits24


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 Credits18-24

Examination or Thesis

Students must successfully pass a comprehensive examination or complete a 3-6 credit thesis3-6
Total Credits3-6


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 799Master's Thesis1-3
Total Credits1-3