The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Associates and George Mason University to Offer Graduate Degree Program

Press Release   •   Nov 01, 2011 05:24 EDT

Master of Arts in the History of Decorative Arts to Unite Distinguished Institutions

The Smithsonian Associates and George Mason University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences began a new collaborative venture in July offering a master of arts in the history of decorative arts. The 48-credit program focuses on object-based instruction and integrates the history of decorative arts into the study of art history and cultural studies.

Since 1996 the master’s in the history of decorative arts at the Smithsonian has offered unique behind-the-scenes study, providing graduate students with extensive academic training and professional experience as well as access to public and private collections, archives and libraries.

The program, which remains at the Smithsonian with the same distinguished faculty and curriculum, joins the department of history and art history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The affiliation with Mason, one of the nation’s fastest-growing research universities, opens new pathways for history of decorative arts students and alumni, including study abroad options through the University of Glasgow. 

“The partnership between The Smithsonian Associates and 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.

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.”

Courses are taught by Mason art history faculty who are scholars and decorative arts professionals from the United States and Europe. Most classes are held at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center in Washington, D.C. Seminars and select courses will be held on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

The Smithsonian’s master of arts in the history of decorative arts was formerly offered by the Corcoran College of Art + Design from 2004 through 2012.