Art History

Master of Arts in Art History with a concentration in museum studies

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Pollak Exhibition

About the Program

As each generation of art historians contributes new research-based interpretations of artworks, the contemporary understanding of each object changes, as does the understanding of the contexts in which it was made, collected, displayed, or critiqued. In this sense, the practice of art history is an ever-unfolding conversation. Graduate study prepares students to join the community of scholars, educators, curators and critics who keep the conversation going.


The MA in Art History with a concentration in museum studies provides a foundation in art historical research and writing, a general background in both modern and contemporary art and museum theory and practice from a global perspective. It primarily prepares students for careers in arts and cultural organizations that require an MA degree, such as collections management, registration, education, development, and some curatorial positions. 


The museum studies concentration requires:

  • 5 core courses: art historiography, museum collections, a seminar in art and representation, and two writing seminars
  • 2 elective courses, usually art history seminars but may include approved courses in other departments
  • 2 museum studies seminars, may include approved courses in other departments
  • 1 museum internship
  • submission of a qualifying paper completed in consultation with a faculty advisor
  • satisfaction of a foreign-language requirement, either with undergraduate course work or a department-administered translation exam


The degree can be completed in 2 years (four semesters), with full-time enrollment in three semesters and part-time enrollment in the fourth semester. Part-time enrollment is also an option, typically with degree completion in 3 years. 


In the first semester, students complete the required course in art historiography and methodology, which provides an essential foundation for research in a chosen area of study. Required and elective seminars are taken in both the first and second year. Internships are usually completed in the second year, but may also be done in the summer. Our students find their internships at one of the many museums and similar institutions in the Richmond area, as well as nearby in Washington, D.C., or Norfolk/Virginia Beach.


By the end of the first year, students identify the advisor for their qualifying paper. This takes the form of a manuscript formatted for submission to an academic or professional journal in the student’s area of primary interest. In the second year, they work closely with their advisors on research and writing while also enrolled in the two required writing seminars. In the fall, the first introduces them to the process of preparing work for scholarly publication: selecting a journal, formulating an argument, presenting research in a variety of pre-publication contexts, securing  copyright for text and images, and formatting for submission to a journal. In the second seminar, in the spring semester, they workshop drafts with peers and prepare a presentation of their research for the entire department. 


Alongside coursework, the department offers professional development workshops on preparing resumes, CV’s, and cover letters; applying to doctoral programs; and attending academic and professional conferences.

Meet current graduate students