Willamette's program in Art History, a humanistic liberal arts discipline, is critically based, while broad in chronological and geographic purview. Course offerings cover the visual art and architecture created from the Stone Age to the present in the Ancient Mediterranean region and in Europe and North America, with introductory classes on the arts of Asia. Courses also explore the theories and methodologies of art history and the study of visual culture. The department offers both a major and a minor program in art history, and encourages interdisciplinary exchanges with other departments on campus such as Arts, Technology and Multimedia; Archaeology; Classical Studies; Religious Studies; Comparative Literature; the History of Ideas; Film Studies; Philosophy; and Women's and Gender Studies.
Our students collaborate with faculty in diverse ways, such as helping to research and curate exhibitions at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art on campus, or by traveling abroad with professors to document contemporary art and interview important artists in the field. Through local internships at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, or with regional art conservationists, our students benefit from numerous opportunities to gain professional experience as they pursue art historical studies. In addition, students participate in a number of funded scholarly initiatives on campus that foster student-faculty collaboration, student research presentations in a public setting, and community service-based art exhibitions and projects. At the Pacific Northwest Art and Artists Archive (PNAAA), located in the Hatfield Library on campus, students gain firsthand experience conducting historical research by examining archival documents, works of art and artifacts.
The department encourages study abroad, and our faculty recently offered foreign study programs in Italy and Ireland, while current students will undertake paid summer internships at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and elsewhere. An exciting schedule of exhibitions, lectures and artist talks, along with the annual Hogue-Sponenburgh Art Lectureship featuring noted professionals in the field, contributes to the culture of engaged learning fostered in our department.
Careers in Art History
Recent alumni of Willamette’s Department of Art History have pursued graduate degrees at institutions such as Harvard University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Oregon, among others. Current students and alumni, for example, have also pursued recent internship and career opportunities with The New Yorker, The Denver Art Museum, and The Art Institute of Chicago, The Corning Museum of Glass, and several other noted institutions.
Graduates of our program have secured employment in a wide range of professions, including art conservation science, primary and secondary school teaching, business, law, photography and many other fields. For ideas about ways in which a major or minor in Art History can be applied to various professions, see our web page "Career Opportunities," and also the site “Career Alternatives for Art Historians.”
The Art History major program is comprised of a core of three introductory courses (ARTH 115, 116, and 117) designed to build basic visual literacy, which explore the significant monuments and themes in Western art from prehistoric times to the twenty-first century. The core also includes a course (ARTH 362W), intended for more advanced students of art history, which surveys the most significant interdisciplinary theories and methodologies used by art historians.
The final course in the art history major core is the Art History Senior Seminar (ARTH 496W) in which students pursue an individual research project, write an original thesis paper, and make a formal oral presentation of their findings. Students build their major around this core, choosing at least one more advanced course in Early or Asian Art History, in Early Modern Art History, and in Modern and Contemporary Art History.