History of Decorative Arts

George Mason University
in Partnership with Smithsonian Associates

About the Program

Since 1996 the MA in the History of Decorative Arts program has offered a one-of-a-kind academic experience to the newest generation of decorative arts professionals. Located at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the program is distinguished by several important aspects that set it apart from other courses of graduate study:

Wide-Ranging Academic Experience

A comprehensive grounding in the history of European and American decorative arts complemented with a consideration of non-Western art.  In addition to theoretical and contextual studies, academic skills are built through courses that focus on furniture, ceramics, glass, costume, textiles, and metalwork. Study abroad opportunities are available to students through our partnership with the University of Glasgow.

Expert and Engaged Faculty

Students are guided in their studies by recognized educators and specialists, and have access to a wide network of decorative arts professionals.

Curriculum that Fosters Individual Focus

The 48-credit masters degree program consists of sixteen 3-credit courses.  Students select half of their course work as electives, enhancing general training with opportunities for personal specialization.  Internships are encouraged, and the program offers an active summer schedule of courses, including domestic and international opportunities.

A Doorway to Insider Access

The Smithsonian's museums and research facilities as well as Washington's world-renowned public museums, private collections, archives, and libraries provide exclusive settings for behind-the-scenes study.

Internships that Complement the Classroom    

Internships with a professional arts institution, organization, or individual are a structured part of the course of study, and multiple placements are guaranteed to every student.

A Competitive Edge in the Professional World    

Program graduates are in high demand for positions at museums, historic organizations, and in the commercial art and design marketplace.  Our first class graduated in 1998, and of the over 200 alumni, 80% are employed in the field of the decorative arts.

  • 45% in museums, historic houses as curators, collections managers, educators.
  • 25% in the commercial art market at auction houses, appraisal firms, galleries, as dealers.
  • 30% in publishing, doctoral study, interior design, non-profit management, teaching.

For a select list of professional positions held by our students and alumni, see Professional Employment of Alumni and Students.

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