Universiteit Leiden

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Art History (MA)

About the programme

The specialisations Art History and Museum Studies both engage in critical perspectives and in current practices and the development of a professional network. The specialisation Art History puts emphasis on the analysis of art works within a museal and curatorial context. Our courses, taught by art historians and museum experts, reflect on the latest academic debates and the latest insights from the working field.

Programme structure

The programme contains two advanced courses giving you a grounding in both art history and museology:

Our first Core Course lets you reflect critically on the role of collections and institutions while offering theories of interpretation and strategies for engaging with artworks.

The second Core Course teaches you to think and write about the current practices in art exhibition from a transhistorical and global perspective.

You will also be given the opportunity to start specializing in a particular research area by choosing from a wide range of optional modules dedicated to specific periods and topics such as: fine and decorative arts, heritage studies, anthropology, memory studies, ethics, new media and the digital humanities.

Starting in September

Core Course I (10 EC) 

Critical Perspectives in Art History and Museum Studies

This course provides an opportunity to engage with the critical terms and perspectives that shape the discourse in art history and museum studies. How do terms such as provenance, restitution, posthumanism, interculturality and globalization (to name but a few) inform theories of interpretation and strategies for engaging artworks and cultural artifacts? You will reflect critically on the role of collections, institutions and diverse modes of historical inquiry. 

2 Thematic Electives (2 x 10 EC) 

Art History oriented:
  • The Symbiosis of Art and Architecture: Art in Situ from the Middle Ages to Today 
  • Performativity & Representation: On the Agency and Political Power of Art
Art History and Museum Studies oriented 
  • Art, museum and anthropology 
Core Course II (10 EC)

Curatorial and Art Historical Practices

Complementing the discursive content of Core Course I which focusses on the current theories and methodologies in the fields of art history and museum studies, Core Course II comprises activities, events and other forms of practice that set ideas in motion and test theories through action. You will work through a number of topical case studies that examine and evaluate art historical scholarship in the light of contemporary curatorial practice. 

Thesis (20 EC)

Starting in February

Core Course II (10 EC)

Curatorial and Art Historical Practices

Complementing the discursive content of Core Course I which focusses on the current theories and methodologies in the fields of art history and museum studies, Core Course II comprises activities, events and other forms of practice that set ideas in motion and test theories through action. You will work through a number of topical case studies that examine and evaluate art historical scholarship in the light of contemporary curatorial practice. 

2 Thematic Electives (2 x 10 EC) 
 
Art History oriented:
  • Art and Critical Thinking Today
Art History and Museum Studies oriented 
  • Exploring decorative arts and art on paper in the Rijksmuseum and the Leiden University collections
Core Course I (10 EC) 

Critical Perspectives in Art History and Museum Studies

This course provides an opportunity to engage with the critical terms and perspectives that shape the discourse in art history and museum studies. How do terms such as provenance, restitution, posthumanism, interculturality and globalization (to name but a few) inform theories of interpretation and strategies for engaging artworks and cultural artifacts? You will reflect critically on the role of collections, institutions and diverse modes of historical inquiry. 

Thesis (20 EC)

These are just a few examples of thesis subjects in past years:

  • Evaluating the web accessibility of the British Museum and the National Galleries of Scotland
  • Curating a culture of complexity; What impact do the geopolitical contexts of Europe and Turkey have on the curatorial practices surrounding their displays of religious Islamic art and objects?
  • Symmetry, ornament and lifelike animals. Images in naturalia collection books
  • Manchester Art Gallery's 2018 Artist Takeover: A Curatorial Case Study
  • Narrating Artemisia Gentileschi: Re-discovering and Re-framing the Artist in Literature and Exhibitions
  • The Future of Artistic Institutions: Attitudes towards a Communal Shift; Ruangrupa case study
  • Funding the future: Museums and declining governmental funding
  • The ethics of using (living) animals in western contemporary art and exhibitions
  • Displaying the disruptive: Dutch Punk and the art institute
  • Picking up the Pieces. Confronting heritage trauma in the post-conflict national museums of Syria and Iraq

Throughout the master’s programme in Arts and Culture you will be able to take advantage of Leiden’s proximity to a network of major museums, collections, libraries and research schools, accessing a range of unique texts and works of art. These include:

  • The National Museum for Ethnology
  • The Museum for the History of Science
  • The National Museum of Antiquities
  • The Rijksmuseum
  • Museum Beelden aan zee in Scheveningen
  • Leiden University Library with its many special collections of prints, drawings and photography
  • Museum Voorlinden
  • Seminars
  • Master classes
  • Excursions
  • Self-study
  • Internship options
  • Class presentations
  • Course assignments
  • Portfolios
  • Midterm and term papers
  • Thesis

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