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Art History

Programs Offered: Major, Minor


Willamette's program in Art History, a humanistic liberal arts discipline, is based in theory and criticism and covers a broad chronological and geographic purview. Course offerings survey the visual art and architecture of the Stone Age to the present in the Ancient Mediterranean, Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Our courses also explore theories and methodologies of Art History and the study of visual culture. The department offers a major and minor program, 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; Cinema Studies; Philosophy; and Women's and Gender Studies.

Getting Involved

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. Current students 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 pursued graduate degrees at institutions such as Harvard University, the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the University of Oregon. Current students and alumni also pursued recent internship and career opportunities with The New Yorker, The Denver Art Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Corning Museum of Glass, and several other noted institutions.

Graduates of our program secure employment in a wide range of professions, including academia, 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 pages "Career Opportunities" and “Career Alternatives for Art Historians.”

Program Overview

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 by exploring 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 employed by art historians.

The final course in the core is the Art History Senior Seminar (ARTH 496W), in which students pursue an individual research project, write an original thesis paper, and give a formal oral presentation. Students build their major around this core, choosing at least one additional advanced course in Early or Asian Art History, in Early Modern Art History, and in Modern and Contemporary Art History.

Michelle Atherton ’15

Alumna uncovers rich history in Scotland

Michelle Atherton ’15 is part of a team cataloging works for the National Trust for Scotland.

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Christian Oldham '14

Student earns first Luce Scholarship

Christian Oldham ’14, MBA ’15 is the first student in Willamette's history to be selected as a national Luce Scholar. 

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