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History of Design and Curatorial Studies (MA)

School Magazine

A Fresh Perspective on History and Practice

The program's curriculum, which can be completed full-time or part-time, offers an object-focused and practice-based approach to the study of European and American decorative arts and design from the Renaissance to the present. Courses in curatorial studies and the history of design enable students to examine contemporary issues in broader social and cultural contexts. Courses on furniture, interiors, ceramics, costume, glass, graphic design, metalwork, textiles, works on paper, and other media go beyond connoisseurship to address objects as intersections of social meaning and aesthetic theory, providing practical and theoretical instruction in the research and display of design objects.

Museum-based Study in
New York City

Classes meet in the museum, offering students the opportunity not only to learn directly from the collection but also to work with curators, conservators, educators, visiting researchers, and designers in the Cooper Hewitt's community of scholars. Students gain hands-on experience in museum practices and procedures; many pursue for-credit internships at Cooper Hewitt and other museums, galleries, auction house archives, and historic houses around the city.

Fellowships and
Other Opportunities

All incoming students in New York are considered for master's curatorial fellowships at Cooper Hewitt, which offer partial tuition remission. MA program students can also apply to teach recitation sections of undergraduate lecture classes on design history, design theory, and other subjects. Student teaching assistants conduct their own classes, leading discussions and formulating and grading assignments. The assistantship, a paid position, is an invaluable opportunity for future academics and one that is rarely open to pre-doctoral students.

A New History in Paris

The MA in History of Design and Curatorial Studies is also offered at Parsons Paris, in partnership with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The New York and Paris campuses have the same application process and curriculum, so students will 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 Paris create opportunities for students there to engage in a unique learning experience that draws on the many collections, archives, and galleries in this historic 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 are awaiting review by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).


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