The Smithsonian Associates and George Mason University Collaborate to Offer a Master’s Degree in the History of Decorative Arts

October 12, 2010
News Release

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The Smithsonian Associates and George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences announce a new collaborative venture to offer a Master of Arts in the History of Decorative Arts. The 48-credit program will focus on object-based instruction, integrating the history of decorative arts into the study of art history and cultural studies. The new partnership will begin in July 2011 with classes beginning in the fall.

As the only degree program of its kind offered in Virginia, the program is designed for students interested in pursuing careers in museums, historic sites, auction houses and arts education. Through direct observation and hands-on examination of Smithsonian artifacts dating from Renaissance through contemporary, students will investigate American, European and global aspects of craft, architecture and interior design, furnishings, metalwork and jewelry, textiles and costume, and ceramics and glass. Some of the coursework will include museum studies, decorative arts theory and design history.

“The Smithsonian program with George Mason University will help to further distinguish the history of decorative arts as a field of serious and significant scholarship,” said Cynthia Williams, director of the history of decorative arts program at The Smithsonian Associates, which operates the decorative arts program for the Smithsonian.

The partnership will allow university students direct access to the vast collections of the Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Natural History, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art.

“The history of the decorative arts has only recently begun to be treated with the critical eye it deserves, and this degree program emphasizes both research and practical job skills in a way that increases the potential for career opportunities,” said Robert DeCaroli, associate professor and director of Mason’s art history program. “Mason will benefit greatly by having access to the incomparable resources and expertise that come with the unique partnership with the Smithsonian Institution.”

Taught by Mason art history faculty and adjunct faculty who are scholars and decorative arts professionals drawn from the United States and Europe, the majority of the courses will be held at the Smithsonian Institution’s S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, D.C. Seminars and select courses will be held on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

The master’s degree in the history of decorative arts was formerly a partnership of The Smithsonian Associates and the Corcoran College of Art + Design from 2004 through 2012. Students who are unable to complete their degree with the Corcoran by the end of the spring 2012 semester will be eligible to earn their degree from Mason with a full transfer of credit. New and returning students for the 2011-2012 academic year will comprise one student body.

About The Smithsonian Associates

The Smithsonian Associates offers life-enriching educational and cultural experiences inspired by the Smithsonian’s exhibitions, collections and research. Each year The Smithsonian Associates creates and presents nearly 1,000 individual programs that deliver exceptional opportunities for learning and growth. For audiences of all ages on the National Mall and across the country programs range from lectures, interviews and panel discussions, to performing arts for adults and children, to studio art classes and local tours.

About George Mason University

Named the No.1 national university to watch in the 2009 rankings of U.S. News & World Report, George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia, Mason provides students access to diverse cultural experiences and the most sought-after internships and employers in the country. Mason offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. With Mason professors conducting groundbreaking research in areas such as climate change, public policy and the biosciences, George Mason University is a leading example of the modern, public university.

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SI-446A-2010