Art history combines art appreciation and education for general knowledge of art history. Art history is the discipline of studying visual art and aesthetic object in cultural and historical contexts. An art history degree program prepares the student for careers as an art history professor, teacher, or director. The degree program is based on the theories of art history, aesthetics, history of art, communication theory, and history of culture.
A number of universities and colleges offer art history degree programs. Most of these programs are offered as part of a bachelor’s degree in the field. Some may be standalone programs, while others may be part of an art history doctoral program. In the United States, the Museum of Arts and Design programs and the School of Art and Design are accredited by the American Council on Accreditation of Museums. The other schools that offer art history degrees are Saint Joseph, University of Maryland, College Park, University of Miami, Florida International University, the State University of New York at College Park, University of San Francisco, and the University of Southern California.
Art historians specialize in particular periods or areas. They may focus on European art history, American art history, art and design history, or the art history of the Caribbean. Students will learn about the period, the creators and their works, their influences, and the changes they brought to their times. They will also learn how these creators lived and worked and what were the issues and struggles in their time helped shape their art. These professionals may specialize in particular genres such as contemporary art, impressionism, cubism, surrealism, or abstract art.
There are many different careers for art history students. Career options range from museum archivists to art conservationists. Some choose to continue their education by obtaining a master’s degree, while others complete doctorate degrees. Art history graduates have the opportunity to be teachers at art schools or work for museums. Many choose to start out in the classroom and teach art history or begin working for art museums after completing their degree.
Other professionals may choose to be art conservators or museum technicians. Conservators are professionals who care for the works of ancient art and restore them to their original condition. They often find a connection between the art history degree they are completing and their specific career choice. Museum technicians work behind the scenes but have a significant impact on the museum’s operations and its collections. Some of the roles include cleaning the art, preparing items for display, storing them, and operating the exhibits.
Art historians also learn about human culture and history. They focus their degrees on cultural studies, viewing human culture as a representation of societal power and economic and educational development. They learn about how various art forms affect each other, how art can communicate messages across cultures and periods, and how the changing cultural climate affects art history. These professionals may be involved in human resource issues such as hiring and managing employees. They may also teach students how to communicate to the public about art history effectively.
Teaching art history majors in college provides a number of benefits, not the least of which is job stability. When students graduate and find employment, they have already made lifelong friends. They will also be able to use their skills to inspire others to pursue art history careers, which will benefit the world as a whole. Art history teachers can find information about art history careers and teach graduate and undergraduate students.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design offers employment opportunities for graduates interested in art history, graphic design and printmaking, and related fields. Students can become professional staff members for school and community organizations. Employment options range from full-time positions to part-time volunteer programs. Graduate and undergraduate students can research internship programs offered by professional organizations and find information about career placement services. Other professionals can help graduates and students in their search for employment.