Dec Arts Seminar in France: The Period Room as Curatorial Practice
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
Department: Art/Design Hist & Theory
Course Number: PGHT 5731
Course Format: Seminar
Location: Off-campus
Permission Required: No
  • Design History, Theory & Criticism
  • Art History, Theory & Criticism
  • Curatorial Practice
This course shall consider the origins and critical issues surrounding the period room beginning with the relationship of the period room to the Panorama, the diorama of the Natural History Museum, and the nationalistic displays of the Worlds’ Fairs. The particular history of the period room in French museums and historic houses will be given special attention. The period room raises many significant issues about museum display, but no less important are the critical issues raised concerning methodologies of social history and the history of decorative arts. Among the topics under consideration are the question of authenticity; the invisibility of the curator; the notion of a period style; and the disjunction between the chronological moment of production and the moment of presentation. Each student chooses a period room as a case study to critique, using one of the series of period rooms that occupy the mezzanine at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, or another of the many significant interiors on view in museums and historic houses in the vicinity of Paris such as the Musée Nissim de Camondo; the Musée Jacquemart-André; and the Musée and Chatêau de Rueil Malmaison . This course will bring this discussion up to the present, and take up the question of whether there can be such a thing as a modern period room. While students may have the opportunity to choose as their object of study a period room that suits their particular area of interest, prospective participants should keep in mind that this course is concerned primarily with curatorial practice rather than the history of decorative arts.
Course Open to: Degree Students
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All matriculated graduate students (and to undergraduate seniors upon approval of the instructor); and also to alumni and students with a BA.


Open to Graduate students.


Not open to Freshman students.

Not open to Junior students.

Not open to Sophomore students.