Introduction to the Department 

The Department of Art History at Penn State offers at the undergraduate level the B.A. degree in art history and two minors: the minor in art history and the interdisciplinary minor in architectural history. The Department offers graduate programs of study leading to the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in art history.

The department also offers lecture/discussion courses and undergraduate and graduate seminars on a broad range of topics, from ancient to contemporary art and architecture in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Courses are also offered in museum studies, historiography, iconology, criticism, connoisseurship, and methods of research. Courses are taught by fifteen faculty members, and three affiliate faculty members (who are curators in the Palmer Museum of Art).

Penn State is a Big Ten, land-grant university whose University Park campus is situated in a congenial college town, aptly named "State College," surrounded by the ridges of the Alleghenies of central Pennsylvania. The campus is a half-day's drive to the museums, galleries, and libraries of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Buffalo, Toronto, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh.

In the summer of 2008, the Department of Art History moved from the Arts Building (its home for more than forty years) to much expanded facilities in the newly restored and remodeled Borland Building. Borland was originally built in 1931–32 for Dairy Husbandry and housed Penn State’s Creamery (with its famous ice cream), which moved into a new Food Science Building in 2006. Borland was originally designed by Charles Z. Klauder (1872–1938), a noted collegiate architect from Philadelphia. The building’s neoclassical porticoes on its two main façades are animated by elegant Adamesque bowed projections and relief carvings emphasizing the building’s bovine past. The Department of Art History occupies most of the top floor of the building and now boasts a Graduate Student Commons, with spacious rooms for both communal activities and quiet individual study. State-of-the-art classrooms, a conference room, and a reading room (the Lord/Hyslop Library) also enhance the art history spaces in the new Borland. The Department of Art History Visual Resources Centre is staffed by two full-time professionals who keep abreast of the latest advancements in digital image production, storage, databases, and use.

Borland Building, current home of the Department of Art History

In 2011 the Harold E. Dickson Memorial Lecture Series in Art History was established. This endowed lecture series is named after Dr. Harold E. Dickson (1900-87), one of the founding professors of art history at Penn State. This annual lecture series brings leading scholars of the world to the University to share their latest research and meet with students. Often the topics of the lectures will relate to courses that are currently being taught.

Many of our graduate students join Penn State's Graduate Student Association for Visual Culture (GSAVC). The GSAVC has organized graduate conferences, as well as lectures by major scholars, critics, and artists.

In a recent survey of graduates from our doctoral program, 95 percent of those who earned their Ph.D. since the year 2000 are employed in art history or a related field as of August 2015. Of these, 71 percent are teaching at the college level.  The other 29 percent hold such positions as museum curator, lead historian at a historic center, study abroad administrator in London, university librarian, post-doctoral fellow, and free lance art historian. Of those teaching at the college level, 67 percent hold tenure-track or tenured positions.

Penn State's Palmer Museum of Art was expanded in the 1990s with a major addition designed by the noted Post-Modern architect Charles W. Moore with Arbonies King Vlock. The museum has a growing permanent collection in Western and Asian art, with particularly strong holdings in Baroque, American, and contemporary art. It also features a regular program of changing exhibitions and a Print Study Room that is often used by art history classes. The museum’s director and curators all hold affiliate faculty status in the Department of Art History. Every spring, the staff of the Palmer teach a museum studies course in our department. Moreover, every semester, one of the curators teaches an art history course in the department. The Palmer Museum has two graduate assistantships that are routinely filled by graduate students in art history. The Department of Art History also has placed one of its graduate assistantships in the Palmer. Graduate students in art history occasionally have the opportunity to help prepare exhibitions and catalogues for the Palmer, and are often hired by the museum to give gallery talks to the public.  Summer internships are also available in the Palmer.

A revered tradition is the weekly Department of Art History Tea, held every Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the Graduate Student Commons. This gathering of art history faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduate majors/minors fosters casual conversations and/or profound discussions in an informal atmosphere of steeped beverages and finger foods.

Our department is regularly invited to select graduate students to participate in major graduate student symposia, including the Middle Atlantic Symposium in the History of Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia Symposium on the History of Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Penn State art history graduate students often present papers at scholarly conferences/symposia across the United States and abroad.

The department also has an active Undergraduate Art History Association. Penn State’s Summer Abroad program in Todi, Italy, is co-sponsored by the Department of Art History.


Non-discrimination Statement

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The University is committed to equal access to programs, facilities, admission, and employment for all persons. It is the policy of the University to maintain an environment free of harassment and free of discrimination against any person because of age, race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, physical or mental disability, gender, perceived gender, gender identity, genetic information, or political ideas. Discriminatory conduct and harassment, as well as sexual misconduct and relationship violence, violates the dignity of individuals, impedes the realization of the University’s educational mission, and will not be tolerated. Direct all inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policy to Dr. Kenneth Lehrman III, Vice Provost for Affirmative Action, Affirmative Action Office, The Pennsylvania State University, 328 Boucke Building, University Park, PA 16802-5901; Email: kfl2@psu.edu; Tel 814-863-0471.

Copyright 2005, Department of Art History, College of Arts and Architecture, Penn State University All rights Reserved.