Letter from the Director

Dear Prospective Student,

The Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture first opened its doors in 1993. In that first catalogue I expressed my conviction that “the aspirations and habits of civilization are revealed through the decorative arts, which are fundamental to the lives of all individuals,” and my hope that the BGC would help “advance the recognition of the decorative arts as one of the primary expressions of human achievement.”

I am delighted that, within such a brief period of time, the BGC has more than fulfilled these aspirations. And, as we have added faculty and foci, we have also broadened our horizons and our self-description. Our even more ambitious aim now is to become a leading center for the study of the cultural history of the material world. Over the years, our innovative degree programs and path-breaking museum exhibitions have created a new context for the study of a significant portion of the heritage of human history. Most recently we have added new faculty to strengthen our commitment to study in the areas of New York and American material culture, modern design history, anthropology, and medieval European artistic and material culture.

Why come here? Because at a time when the world of learning recognizes more than ever the importance of materiality, the BGC offers a stronger concentration of intellectual resources—both human and practical—devoted to its study than you are likely to find anywhere else. Our emphasis on object-centered, question-driven work unites the best approaches of the museum curator and the university professor, carving a distinctive niche for ourselves and our graduates in today’s intellectual world.

And while some places restrict either their geographical, chronological, or methodological focus, we emphasize an encyclopedic range. The BGC offers the breadth of approaches and resources associated with a university, with the sense of project and focus typical of an institute. Indeed, as a “graduate research institute,” the Bard Graduate Center ensures that its students are part of an intellectual enterprise that is reflected not only in the work done by our faculty but also in the many outside speakers who are a regular part of our curriculum and in our collaborative partners: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Frick Collection, the New-York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Why come here? Because this stellar intellectual package is part of a fully thought-through student experience that begins with small class size (averaging five or six per seminar) and attentive advising and includes housing in the heart of midtown Manhattan, funds to support student research, a sponsored travel program, wide-ranging internships, and financial-aid awards rivaling those of much larger institutions.

Why come here? Because in this day and age there are few opportunities to be part of something new, to participate in a creative and innovative intellectual venture that will help define future practice. Because studying at the BGC can only broaden the horizons and enhance the skills that future scholars will need. For at the heart of this intense experience of study and conversation is a commitment to intellectual openness and flexibility. Leaving here, whether a student goes on to the world of work, additional graduate training, or university teaching, he or she is sent off with the “tool kit” and the perspective needed to thrive in the 21st century.

I look forward to seeing many of you here.


Susan Weber
Founder and Director


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