History of Design and Curatorial Studies (MA)

  • This prestigious two-year master’s degree program, which Parsons offers in conjunction with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, brings an object-focused, practice-based approach to the study of European and American decorative arts and design dating from the Renaissance to the present. Housed for more than 30 years at Cooper Hewitt — the only U.S. museum devoted exclusively to historical and contemporary design — the program enables students to work directly with the museum’s collections and its curators, conservators, educators, and designers.

    This program is part of Parsons’ School of Art and Design History and Theory (ADHT). Learn about the ADHT community and explore our blog to see what students, faculty, and alumni are doing in NYC and around the world.

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    Perspectives on History and Practice

    The MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies curriculum offers practical and theoretical instruction in researching and displaying interiors and design objects such as furniture, ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and works in other media. New courses on curatorial studies and courses exploring the history of design in social and cultural context reflect the program’s broadened scope and relevance.

    Hands-On Experience

    Students complete the 42 required credits in two years of full-time study or three to four years of part-time study. At the renovated Cooper Hewitt, graduate students have opportunities to curate exhibitions, create programming for the public, and produce interpretive materials — all of which provide essential hands-on experience in museum and curatorial practices. Access to the Smithsonian’s Design Library, New School library holdings, and the library consortium enriches object-based research.

    Broad Research Horizons

    For-credit internships enable students to explore professions in museums, auction houses, and galleries and on new online platforms. Also available are a limited number of master’s curatorial fellowships at Cooper Hewitt, which provide partial tuition remission. In addition, MA students can apply for paid teaching assistantships. Parsons’ School of Art and Design History and Theory (ADHT) programs reflect the faculty’s expertise in areas including art and design methodology and philosophy, design criticism, cultural anthropology, sustainability, and material culture and are designed to provide students with opportunities to take related courses within ADHT. Students can take courses and participate in collaborative projects throughout Parsons and The New School, which open up new topics and areas of investigation in curatorial practice and historical research. They can also study abroad or pursue their degree at Parsons Paris, benefiting from our relationship with Musée des Arts Décoratifs, our partner museum.

    Future Opportunities

    Students graduate prepared to join alumni who work in some of the world’s most prestigious nonprofit, commercial, cultural, and academic institutions. Graduates obtain specialist and management positions in auction houses, museums, and historic houses; enter fields such as criticism and journalism, consulting and e-commerce, and teaching; and pursue advanced study.

  • Curriculum

    Parsons offers the Master of Arts in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies in collaboration with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The degree is awarded for completion of 42 credits of coursework and a master's examination or a thesis. A maximum of six credits of graduate-level coursework can be transferred from another institution. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.

    First Year / Fall
    PGHI 5100 Survey of Decorative Arts 1 3
    PGHI 5105 Proseminar 3
    Elective Curatorial/Museology*
    First Year / Spring
    PGHI 5102 Survey of Decorative Arts 2 3
    Electives (3)
    Second Year / Fall
    PGHI 5902 Independent Study: Thesis 1 3
    Electives (2)
    Or Electives (3, if taking Master's Exam)
    Second Year / Spring

    PGHI 5903 Independent Study: Thesis 2 or PGHI 5904 Independent Study: Master's Exam

    Electives (2)
    Total Credits 42

    *May be taken in any semester


    Program Contact

    Full Time Faculty

      See All Program Faculty



      Learn more about what Parsons students, faculty, and alumni are doing throughout the city and around the world. Explore the ADHT Community


      Graduates hold curatorial posts in museums and collections worldwide and specialist positions in auction houses and galleries. They serve in a range of capacities related to interpreting and promoting art and design and educating the public about them.

      Curatorial positions in museums:

      • Museum of Modern Art
      • Victoria & Albert Museum
      • Indianapolis Art Museum
      • Museum of Art and Design
      • Metropolitan Museum of Art
      • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
      • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
      • Wolfsonian Museum
      • M+ Museum (Hong Kong)

      Specialist positions in auction houses, galleries, and online platforms: 

      • Sotheby's
      • Christie's
      • Doyle
      • Phillips
      • One Kings Lane


      • Cranbrook Art Museum
      • Winterthur Museum
      • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
      • Metropolitan Museum of Art

      Editorial positions (print and online):

      • Metropolis 
      • New York Times
      • Martha Stewart Living
      • The Magazine Antiques

      Positions in the interior design industry:

      • Peter Marino Architects 
      • HOK Associates
      • Archive Edition Textiles

      Academic positions:

      • New York School of Interior Design
      • Parsons School of Design
      • National Institute of Design (India)
      • Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)
      • School of the Art Institute of Chicago

      Admission Requirements

      Application and Financial Aid Deadlines

      Application Deadline:

      The application deadline is January 1. To be most competitive for admission and merit scholarship consideration, please apply before the deadline. We will continue to review applications received after the January 1 priority deadline pending space availability in the program. The Admission Committee will make a decision on your application only after all the required materials have been received. Spring term admission is not offered for this program.

      The application deadline for readmission for the fall term is August 1. Review readmission information below.

      Financial Aid Deadline:

      All applicants selected for admission into our program are considered for a merit scholarship award that is determined by the strength of their application. Scholarship award notification is communicated at the same time as the admission decision. International students are eligible only for merit scholarships. If you are a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, we encourage you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can be found on the Web at The FAFSA is available each year on October 1. You do not need to wait for an admission decision to apply for federal aid; we recommend submitting by our FAFSA priority deadline of February 1 for fall applicants. (The New School’s federal school code is 002780.)

      Application Instructions

      All applicants are required to apply online. Save your work frequently and print a copy for your records. You must complete all required fields and uploads prior to submission.

      Any additional supporting documents that need to be sent by mail must include an Application Materials Cover Sheet. All supporting materials must be received before your application can be reviewed.

      See below for additional information regarding submission of transcripts and recommendations.

      Required Application Materials

      1. Application Form: Complete the online application. All applicants are required to apply online.
      2. Application Fee: A nonrefundable $50 application fee paid as part of the online application.
      3. Transcripts:
        Unofficial Transcripts: Applicants must upload an unofficial transcript, mark sheet, or academic record for each institution (even if you didn’t receive a degree) in the Educational Background section of the online application.
        • All transcript uploads must be accompanied by a key, a legend, or the back copy of the transcript.
        • Non-English transcripts must be accompanied by an English translation. Records from non-U.S. institutions must have grades or marks and contain a copy of the diploma if the degree has been conferred.
        • Make sure your name appears on the transcript/record. Scans must be clear and legible.
        • Do not mail materials that have been uploaded with the online application or any other materials unless requested by the admission office.
        • If you experience trouble uploading your transcript, email and give a detailed description of the issue and attach the document in question.
        The New School reserves the right to require official transcripts at any time during the admission process. Any fraudulent activity or discrepancies found between uploaded and official transcripts will result in the immediate revocation of admission and/or dismissal from The New School. Transcripts uploaded with the online application are considered unofficial.

        Official Transcripts: Applicants offered admission will be required to submit official transcripts (as well as official certified translations and evaluations of the transcripts/mark sheets and degree certifications if the degree was earned outside of the United States) to The New School. Admitted applicants must submit all official transcripts pertaining to their entire academic career.

        Your offer of admission will be contingent upon the receipt and verification of these official documents. New students will not be permitted to register for their second semester of study until all official transcripts (including degree-awarding transcripts) have been received by the Office of Graduate Admission. Transcripts uploaded with the online application do not satisfy this requirement.

        By Mail: Official transcripts should have an original signature or a raised university seal, and must be in a sealed envelope that has been signed or stamped by the issuing university’s registrar or records office. Applicants can either send official transcripts with an Application Materials Cover Sheet or request that institutions send transcripts directly to The New School. See “Mailing Address for Supplemental Materials” for our mailing address in the Additional Instructions and Information section below.

        Electronic Transcripts (U.S./Domestic Institutions Only): The New School accepts electronic transcripts only from our approved vendors. The New School’s approved vendors, in order of preference, are
        • Parchment Exchange
        • SCRIP-SAFE International
        • National Student Clearinghouse
        We do not accept electronic transcripts sent directly by a student or school offices. Note: All international academic credentials must be submitted as indicated in the International Academic Credentials sections below.

        International Academic Credentials: All transcripts not written in English must be accompanied by a certified English translation or be evaluated by World Education Services (WES), or by another member of the National Association of Credit Evaluation Services (NACES). A course-by-course evaluation must be prepared for each transcript. In the absence of an evaluation, the Admission Committee will do its best to render a decision. Please note: In some cases, a review cannot be made without an evaluation, and a committee decision will be delayed. The Admission Office reserves the right to request a transcript evaluation if necessary.

        If using WES, visit for instructions and to begin the application process. The “Required Documents” section will explain what to send. If you request your report online, search for “The New School” when selecting our institution. WES will send your completed evaluation directly to The New School.

        If using another NACES provider, follow instructions for that provider. Mailed evaluations and translations should be sent to the mailing address provided for supporting materials. Applicants forwarding these sealed documents should include an Application Materials Cover Sheet.
      4. Résumé: Submit a brief résumé/curriculum vitae summarizing your academic qualifications, relevant work experience, volunteer/community work, travel, exhibitions, public speaking, or any other relevant experiences as they may relate to your field of study, including dates and positions held. Please also note any special language or computer skills that you have.
      5. Statement of Purpose: Please submit a two-part essay in a single Word document. Your submission should not exceed five pages total.

        Part 1: Autobiographical Statement (250–500-word limit). In a short autobiographical statement, tell us about yourself. You can write about your education, your family, your talents and passions, particular intellectual influences, people you have met, work you’ve done that has shaped the person you have become, or significant places or events in your life, especially as they relate to your field of study. In addition, use this portion of the essay to explain any strengths or weaknesses you may have (examples: low GPA, lack of experience, significant interruption in work or studies, unique skills and achievements as they relate to the program, or any other information you want to share). Your writing should be informative and reflect your own voice.

        Part 2: Academic Statement of Interests (500–750-word limit). Please describe the academic and intellectual interests, progress, and achievements that have contributed to your decision to apply for graduate study in this field. You should include a thoughtful description of your tentative plan of study or area of inquiry in the field as you now envision it, the kind of research questions you intend to pursue, your professional goals, and an explanation of how this graduate program will help you realize those goals. In addition, include a self-assessment of your work as a scholar, pointing out strengths and weaknesses. If you have not enrolled as a student in the past five years, please address anticipated opportunities and challenges in pursuing the degree, and future career expectations upon completion of the program.
      6. Recommendation Letters: You are required to submit two letters of recommendation from faculty or people with whom you have worked professionally. Recommenders can submit recommendations online; instructions are included with the online application. If preferred, the recommendation form can instead be sent by mail in a signed, sealed envelope. To send by mail, download the PDF recommendation form found in the online application, complete the personal information, save the form, and forward it to the recommender for completion and submission. Applicants can also send signed and sealed recommendations to the Office of Admission using an Application Materials Cover Sheet.
      7. Suggested Courses: A minimum of two courses in art history or equivalent experience are encouraged.
      8. Writing Sample (Optional): Although it is not required, if you would like to submit an academic writing sample that you feel reflects your strengths as a critical thinker and writer for this program, please upload a single document no longer than ten pages in length.
      9. Test Scores:
        GRE (Optional): Although it is not required, if you took the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and general tests (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing), scores can be submitted to support your application. GRE scores should be sent electronically. The institution code is 2638.

        TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE: All applicants whose first language is not English must submit valid TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores. The minimum score required for TOEFL (IBT) is 92, for IELTS is 7.0, and for PTE is 63. Our TOEFL institution code is 2638.

        The New School does not require TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE scores for applicants:

        • Whose native language is English
        • Who have earned a four-year degree from a U.S. college/university or from a university where English is the primary language of instruction (minimum of three years attendance)
        Upon review of your application, the Office of Admission reserves the right to request a TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE score.

        Arrange for the testing service to send your test scores directly to The New School using the codes listed above. We accept scores from the past two years. If your scores are older, you must retake the test. For more information, visit TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE.

        Applicants also have the option of enrolling in The New School's English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Students must pass Level 6 in order to waive the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE requirement. Visit the ESL website for more information.
      10. Interviews: In-person interviews are encouraged for students who live near New York. Students who live further away are encouraged to request a phone interview. Please contact program director Sarah Lichtman to request an interview after you have submitted your application.

      Additional Information and Instructions

      1. Applying to More Than One Program: In any given term, a student can apply to only one department or program within The New School. Applicants who file more than one application in a given semester will be required to withdraw one of the applications, and application fees will not be refunded.
      2. Application Materials: All materials submitted in association with The New School application become the property of The New School and cannot be returned to you or transmitted to a third party.
      3. Test Score Codes:
        • TOEFL: The institution code is 2638.
        • GRE: The institution code is 2638.
      4. Application Status: Applications become complete and ready for review once all required items have been received by the Office of Admission. You can check your application status online at the Admission Hub.

        Allow at least 14 days from the date you submitted your application for items to be matched and shown as received on the Hub. Applicants are responsible for following up with schools and recommenders to confirm that items have been sent.

        The Office of Admission will periodically notify applicants by email if their file is missing any documents and again when their file is complete for review. These notifications are sent to the email address provided in the online application.
      5. Readmission: Application for Readmission (PDF) should be completed by students who wish to return after an absence of four semesters (fall and spring). Students must reapply to the program to which they were originally admitted. Readmission is only available for current New School programs. If you are looking to transfer 24 or more semester-based credits, you should apply for admission as a transfer student according to the instructions outlined above. The following materials are required of applicants seeking readmission:

        • Application for Readmission (PDF)
        • Statement of Purpose
        • One letter of recommendation
        • Transcripts (required if you have attended another college or university since last at The New School)
        • Updated portfolio at the request of faculty
      6. Mailing Address for Supplemental Materials:
        Parsons School of Design
        Office of Admission (PS 300)
        79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor
        New York, NY 10003