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Offered in cooperation with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and other leading institutions in the field of Art and Design in Paris, the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program* leads to a master of arts degree. Graduates may go on to careers as historians, curators, and scholars in museums, universities, historic houses, auction houses, and galleries.
The program's curriculum, which can be completed full-time or part-time, focuses on the stylistic, historical, and theoretical contexts of arts, decorative arts, and design from the Renaissance to the present, with particular attention to the history of collections and the contemporary issues in curation. Object-based courses on a broad range of works, movements, theories and practices go beyond connoisseurship to address objects as intersections of socio-historic meaning and aesthetic theory. Students gain practical and theoretical instruction in research on and the display of design objects.
The program's Paris home, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, is the only museum in France devoted exclusively to historical and contemporary design. Most classes are held inside the museum, where students meet and work with renowned curators, designers, collectors, and scholars. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is housed in a wing of the Palais du Louvre. Students can also take advantage of nearby museums, such as the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine.
In the program, students become familiar with French language and culture. Parsons Paris offers numerous opportunities to achieve this goal, including language classes, field trips, and a dedicated French Grad Reading class running throughout the curriculum. Students also gain hands-on experience in French museum practices and procedures; they will be encouraged to pursue for-credit internships in museums, galleries, auction house archives, and historic houses around the city.
In collaboration with the Parsons Paris Gallery and partner programs or institutions, graduate students regularly undertake curatorial projects throughout their education. While developing exhibitions, students gain experience working in teams, putting theoretical and historical knowledge into practice, and dealing with both conceptual and practical issues in curation. After a range of experiences during their first year, graduate students are invited to undertake and manage a collective exhibition. This project will serve as a culmination of their studies and provide them with the extensive experience needed to enter the professional world of exhibitions, galleries, museums, and other cultural venues.
The MA in History of Design and Curatorial Studies is also offered in New York, in partnership with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The Paris and New York campuses have the same application process and curriculum, so students have the opportunity to begin their study in one city and take a semester or year in the other. Parsons' long-standing relationships with cultural institutions in New York create opportunities for students there to engage in a unique learning experience that draws on the many collections, archives, and galleries in the city.
*Note: This master’s degree was formerly called History of Decorative Arts and Design. Changes to the program have been approved by the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).