Smithsonian Associates and George Washington University Partner To Offer a Master’s Degree in Decorative Arts and Design History

April 4, 2017
News Release

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Smithsonian Associates and George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design announce a new partnership to offer a Master of Arts in Decorative Arts and Design History. The 42-credit program provides academic training in European and American object and material culture, design and craft. Students gain professional training that balances connoisseurship and the study of the history, function and aesthetic development of objects. Classes begin in the fall, and courses and resources will be housed at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center in Washington, D.C.

The degree program prepares students for careers as scholars, educators and professionals working in museums, historic sites, auction houses, galleries, appraisal firms and many other venues. The curriculum offers a broad foundation in European and American decorative arts and design history with an object-based focus on woodworking, textiles, costume, ceramics, glass and metalwork. Professors are experts in the field, who train students in methodological approaches, including material-culture studies, museum studies, connoisseurship and emerging discourses in design history. Internships with a professional arts institution, organization or individual museum professionals are a structured part of the course of study, and placements are guaranteed to every student.

“This program offers the best of both worlds—academics and museum practice—to the next generation of decorative arts and design historians, curators, scholars and administrators,” said Frederica R. Adelman, director of the Smithsonian Associates, which operates the decorative arts and design history program for the Smithsonian. “We are so pleased to partner with the University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design to enable students to learn from their extensive network of professionals and research communities.”

The new partnership grants university students access to state-of-the-art educational and conservation facilities at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum as well as the vast collections of the Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Natural History, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art.

Housed for 25 years at the Smithsonian, the program originally came to Washington from New York under the auspices of the independent Corcoran College of Art. “Having the Master of Arts in Decorative Arts and Design History program return to the Corcoran complements our highly regarded master’s programs in Art History and Museum Studies and amplifies the Corcoran as a leader in supporting cultural institutions and scholarship as an aspect of cultural production,” said Sanjit Sethi, director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. “We are looking forward to collaborating with the Smithsonian to grow this program and enhance educational outcomes for our students.”

Previously named Master of Arts in the History of Decorative Arts, the program was most recently offered in conjunction with Smithsonian Associates and George Mason University. Students will be able to complete their degree with George Mason University until June 2018 or transfer credits in order to earn their degree from George Washington University. New and returning students for the 2017–2018 academic year will comprise the united student body. Specifics about the program are online:

About Smithsonian Associates

Smithsonian Associates—the largest museum-based education program in the world—produces vibrant educational and cultural programming inspired by the Smithsonian’s research, collections and exhibitions. Each year more than 750 individual programs are presented to spark creativity and excite learning in people of all ages in the Washington, D.C., area and across the country. Smithsonian Associates brings the Smithsonian to life through seminars, performances, lectures, studio arts classes and local and regional study tours, as well as many engaging programs for children, including performances and summer day camps.

About George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design bridges George Washington University’s academically robust programs in the arts with Corcoran’s creative and inspired scholarship. Part of the University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the school functions as an incubator for artists and practitioners in arts-related fields and serves to enrich students who are taking classes in other areas of the university. As such, it provides a platform for engagement that bridges creative expression and practical application with the breadth and depth of the larger liberal arts education.

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Lauren Lyons

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