Master’s Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies

Small wood-paneled room with a large table in the center and three women seated at the table, reading. Books on shelves all around them.

About the program

The next generation of decorative arts and design historians, curators, scholars, and administrators will receive their education from this prestigious two-year program, which confers a Master of Arts in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies from Parsons School of Design, in partnership with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The degree leads graduates to careers at museums, historic houses, galleries, appraisal firms, magazines, publishing companies, auction houses, and universities. The curriculum offers courses in the media of ceramics, costume, furniture, glass, graphic design, metalwork, textiles, and works on paper. These courses go beyond connoisseurship to address a wide range of issues in the decorative arts and design including social, economic, and cultural history, critical theory, style, and techniques.

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Course content

The program focuses on the history of European and American decorative arts and design from the Renaissance to the present. The unique character of the program is defined by its location within Cooper Hewitt, the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historical and contemporary design. The program is able to avail students of the exceptional resources within Cooper Hewitt’s encyclopedic collections of European and American furniture, glass, ceramics, metalwork, architectural and ornamental drawings and prints, textiles, wallcoverings, and graphic and industrial design. It is located in the Miller-Fox townhouses on East 90th Street adjacent to the Cooper Hewitt galleries inside the landmark Andrew Carnegie Mansion.

In addition, the Museum boasts the premier design library in the United States, with a collection of over 80,000 books and periodicals related to the history of design, as well as extensive holdings of trade catalogs and archives of African-American, Latino-Hispanic, and American designers. The courses emphasize object-based teaching through utilizing museum collections. Students have the opportunity to work in Cooper Hewitt’s four curatorial departments: Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design; Product Design and Decorative Arts; Textiles; and Wallcoverings.