Art History B.A.

Are you interested in visual culture? Do you find yourself drawn to paintings, architecture, sculpture, and keep asking where these works come from and what they mean to the people who live with them? Art history will help you connect your passion for visual communication with your other interests.

The Department of Art History is part of the Indiana University Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. When pursuing a major in art history you work with faculty who are renowned for their ability as researchers and teachers concerning visual cultures of all parts of the world.

The Art History B.A. allows you to focus on themes, historical time frames, and/or geographic regions of the world.

The department recommends complementing your major in art history with a minor in another humanities area. Minoring in Studio Art also enriches your depth and understanding of the field.

The Department of Art History offers an undergraduate minor for students majoring in other subjects. It is also popular as a second major.

Coursework

Getting started

Students majoring in Art History must complete at least one class above the 100 level in at least four areas of art history. Depending on the your goals for your major, you can typically focus your coursework in one of the following ways. Each requires study at the upper level in the region, theme, or other dimension of art history coursework:

  • A geographic region of the world
  • An historical period
  • A theme drawing across regions and periods
  • An interest in curatorial work
  • An individualized major crafted in consultation with a faculty member

Tracks and concentrations

Art History students have a rich array of courses to choose from, divided into eight distinctive areas of study:

  • Ancient
  • Medieval
  • Renaissance/Baroque
  • Modern/Contemporary
  • Asian
  • African/Oceanic/Pre-Columbian
  • Art Theory
  • Islamic

Majors choose courses from at least four of these areas to complete their degree programs.

Upper level coursework

Some art history thematic courses are topical in nature, with content drawn from the expertise of the instructor. Some classes offer opportunities to develop curatorial skills through hands-on projects with the collections of the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Some recent examples of thematic classes include: Fantasy, Imagination, and the Capriccio Tradition, African American Women Artists, Art History goes to the Movies, and the Senior Seminar, which varies each year.

An international experience such as overseas study, an internship, or volunteer work is recommended for students whose degree and career goals would be supported by such experiences.

Qualified students are eligible for Departmental Honors.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

With the help of your academic advisor, majors can be combined with many other courses of study, allowing you to add depth to your knowledge concerning your regional or thematic focus.

Art History students often add a second major or a minor in Studio Art, Anthropology, History, Folklore and Ethnomusicology, International Studies, Media, Arts Management or Nonprofit Management, Religious Studies, or a foreign language, among other options.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in Art History, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

Students interested in independent study should start by taking a class with a faculty member whose research includes your area of interest. Go talk with the professor while you are enrolled in the class to discuss your interests. You can set up your independent study to build on an existing class or spend a semester exploring a topic in depth.

Honors

The Honors Program for Art History majors is designed to provide outstanding students with an opportunity to pursue creative independent study and research on a subject of their own choosing. This is done in close consultation with a faculty mentor.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

The Art History faculty nominates and then selects a winner of the Robert and Avis Tarrant Burke Award, given annually to one member of the graduating class. Recipients will have completed all requirements for the major and maintained a high standard of scholarship and character during their undergraduate career.

The brand-new Grafton Trout Undergraduate Essay Prize, inaugurated in spring 2017, is awarded by the faculty to the best art historical paper written during the current academic year.

Other scholarships and awards are available through the College of Arts and Sciences.

Internships

Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.

Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. Art history majors sometimes find internships at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago,  the National Gallery of Art, and other museums and galleries.

Students can also pursue internships through an international semester or year abroad. To explore this further, contact the Office of Overseas Study.

Locally, students pursue a variety of internship opportunities. Recent internships have included the following programs and institutions:

Foreign language study

A large number of art history majors pursue the study of a foreign language beyond the requirements of their degree, in pursuit of their long-term career goals. Be mindful that if your area of interest includes a particular world region, it is very helpful to be able to communicate in that language.

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 70 languages.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Overseas study is increasingly important to undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Art history students often pursue language study and other coursework through programs in places such as these:

  • Florence, Italy
  • London, England
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Paris, France

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with Art History faculty, your academic advisor, and the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Many art history majors join the Undergraduate Association of Art Historians in order to develop their interests and connect with like-minded colleagues. Students are also invited to participate with the Friends of Art, an association that supports the Friends of Art Bookshop, the Grunwald Gallery of Art, and the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.

Professional organizations

Professional organizations relevant to art history include:

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The Art History B.A. provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Specific disciplinary skills: understand and communicate critical faculties and analytical terms native to the study of a specific area of art history and visual culture, with the ability to connect these in relevant ways to knowledge from other fields
  • Cultural fluency: understand and communicate a broad familiarity with global artistic and artisanal practices, comprehending the cultural matrix in which a given image operates
  • Analytical and critical thinking, and intellectual agility: utilize both primary and secondary sources, evaluating cultural artifacts and texts in their historical contexts, with the ability to think in a variety of ways about a variety of problems
  • Conducting independent research: develop evidence-based arguments, differentiate primary and secondary sources, employ and evaluate search engines to craft your own original research
  • Persuasive writing skills: interact with and inform both experts and non-experts to defend your own research-based point of view through oral and written presentations

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Together with your other coursework, your degree provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:

  • Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
  • Learn to think critically and creatively
  • Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
  • Discover ethical perspectives
  • Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
  • Practice and apply scientific methods
  • Learn to reason quantitatively
  • Develop historical consciousness
  • Investigate and study the international community
  • Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
  • Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:

  • Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
  • Work in a team structure
  • Make decisions and solve problems
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize work
  • Obtain and process relevant information
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Create and/or edit written reports

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic and career advisors about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career advisor can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with your career advisor at the Walter Center for Career Achievement.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors and prepare for job interviews, too.

Join one or more of the new Career Communities to determine if the path you are considering aligns with your short- and long-term goals. Consult with community facilitators, connect with employers, and learn with fellow students about educational preparation, employment opportunities, insider tips, industry-related interview questions, and more.

The job market

Students with the Art History B.A. degree take their education in many directions, whether moving immediately into a career or going on to graduate or professional studies. A degree in art history not only provides you with a specific body of knowledge and skills, it also challenges you to be flexible and to think creatively and analytically in a variety of situations.

Based on your specific interests, your initial and long-term opportunities may include positions in museums, sales, education, media, non-profit organizations, state or federal government, business, galleries, auction houses, or as an entrepreneur providing curatorial services. You may be interested in becoming an archivist, curator, or employee of a museum. Forty percent of art history majors choose to double major, combining multiple areas of specialization and interest.

The employment outlook is positive for students with an art history degree. In the 2012-2022 decade, employment in this field is expected to grow by 11%, on par with the anticipated growth for all occupations, as a result of the public's interest in the services required to maintain and store valued objects and information.

Art history majors can become art librarians, museum curators, art preservationists, curatorial consultants, independent producers, architectural conservationists, freelance writers, creative designers, corporate curators, teachers, and art publishers, among many options.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations. 

Post-graduate short-term experiences

The beginning of your post-graduate career might be an ideal time to explore an international internship or other short-term experience through organizations such as these:

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits and government organizations.

Good resources for finding post-graduate fellowships include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

An Art History degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as art criticism, museum work, advanced research, and teaching. An advanced degree may be required to secure upper level positions in museums and at historical sites.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies in art history have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions and prominent libraries and museums, including:

Here are examples of graduate programs offered at IU:

Alumni connections

Talk with the art history faculty, your academic advisor, career advisor and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences. Be sure to visit the Indiana University Art History Alumni Facebook page.

The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.


Is it for you?

The Department of Art History attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Students typically have one or more of the following qualities:

  • Concern for the presentation and representation of art around the world
  • Desire to develop proficiency in communicating about and analyzing visual cultures
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination
  • Interest in visual culture and its contexts
  • Passion for curating or conserving art and material culture

Learn more

Contact the Art History academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address
kherndon@indiana.edu