Mason, Smithsonian to Offer Master’s Degree in the History of Decorative Arts

Posted: October 15, 2010 at 10:34 am, Last Updated: October 21, 2010 at 8:07 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences and The Smithsonian Associates program of the Smithsonian Institution will jointly offer a master of arts in the history of decorative arts, the only degree program of its kind in the commonwealth of Virginia.

Classes will begin in fall 2011, pending approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

The 48-credit program will focus on object-based instruction and integrate the history of decorative arts into the study of art history and cultural studies.

The program, housed in the Department of History and Art History, is ideal for students interested in pursuing careers as curators, historic site directors, auction house associates, authors and art educators.

“The history of the decorative arts has only recently begun to be treated with the critical eye it deserves, and this degree program emphasizes both research and practical job skills in a way that increases the potential for career opportunities for students,” says Robert DeCaroli, associate professor and director of Mason’s art history program.

“Mason will benefit greatly by having access to the incomparable resources and expertise that come with the unique partnership with the Smithsonian Institution.”

Through direct observation and hands-on examination of artifacts, students will investigate American, European and global aspects of craft, architecture, interior design, furnishings, metalwork, jewelry, textiles, costume, ceramics and glass. Some of the course work includes museum studies, decorative arts theory and design history.

The partnership between Mason and the Smithsonian Institution will allow students direct access to the vast collections of the Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of Natural History and the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

“The partnership between The Smithsonian Associates and Mason will provide a balance of connoisseurship training blended with studies of the history, function and aesthetic development of objects reinforced with deep understanding of material culture and theoretical considerations,” says Cynthia Williams, director of the history of decorative arts program at The Smithsonian Associates.

“Ultimately, this program will help to further distinguish the history of decorative arts as a field of serious and significant scholarship.”

Classes will be taught by Mason art history faculty and adjunct faculty members who are scholars and decorative arts professionals in the United States and Europe, and the majority of the courses will be held at the Smithsonian Institution’s S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, D.C. Seminars and select courses will be held on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

The master of arts in the history of decorative arts was formerly a partnership of The Smithsonian Associates and the Corcoran College of Art + Design. Students who are unable to complete their degree with the Corcoran by the end of the spring 2012 semester will be eligible to earn their degree from Mason with a full transfer of credit. New and returning students for the 2011-12 academic year will all be Mason students.

For more information, contact DeCaroli.

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