Master of Arts Program

The first year of study in the Master of Arts program includes an intensive orientation period held in August. In both the fall and spring terms, students register for four courses (12 credits), including the two-semester Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture and the one-semester Approaches to the Object. During the late spring, first-year students earn credits by beginning an internship, usually completed in the summer months. Students com­plete the remaining credits of course work during the fall and spring semesters of their second year. In the fall semester of their second year, students continue their Qualifying Paper research, and in the spring, they complete it. The Qualifying Paper is supervised by a full-time member of the BGC faculty and is also read by a second person. Full-time students must submit their Qualifying Paper in the second year. MA diplomas indicate a degree in the history of decorative arts, design history, and material culture.

All MA degree candidates complete an internship that provides practical experience in an institutional or commercial setting. Students often fulfill this requirement during the summer between the first and second years of study. BGC students have been placed at more than 200 cultural and commercial institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Musée du Louvre; the Victoria and Albert Museum; Waddesdon Manor; the Museum of the City of New York; the New-York Historical Society; the Hispanic Society of America; Historic Hudson Valley; the New Jersey Historical Society; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; the Lower East Side Tenement Museum; the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art; Merchant’s House Museum; the Museum of American Art; Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden; Wolfsonian–Florida International University; the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation; Metropolis Magazine; Christie’s; Sotheby’s; Formica Corporation of America; Coty, Inc.; Art in General; Philip Colleck, Ltd.; and Masterson Gurr Johns, Inc.

Study trips are important features of the MA program. They range from examining museological procedures at exemplary institutions or manufacturing processes in contemporary industries to the ten-day long study trip that completes the first year of study and is open to all registered students.

Requirements for the Master of Arts Degree

Students receive the master of arts degree in the history of the decorative arts, design history, and material culture after successfully completing the following requirements:

Reading knowledge of French, German, or Italian 
(MA students are required to take a language exam during the August Orientation Session and to satisfy the language requirement by April of their first year of full-time study.)
August Orientation Session no credit
Research Techniques: Library and Digital Workshops 
Language Workshops
Survey 9 credits
Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture
(2 semesters)
 Approaches to the Object (1 semester)  
Elective Courses 33 credits
11 Elective Courses 
(Two electives must cover periods before 1800, and a third must be a non-Western course. Students may fulfill this requirement with an Independent Study.)
Internship 3 Credits
Qualifying Paper
3 Credits


48 Credits

Please note:
• MA students may transfer a maximum of 12 credits from graduate courses at other institutions with approval of the Graduate Committee. Courses are not transferable until after a student has enrolled. 
• Recipients of fellowships or scholarships must enroll for a minimum of 9 credits each semester in order to remain eligible for financial aid.

Part-time Study

The Bard Graduate Center accepts applications for part-time study in the MA and PhD programs. To accommodate part-time students, the BGC offers some evening courses. For further information about enrolling part-time at the BGC, contact the Academic Programs Office. Financial aid is generally not available to part-time students. It is not possible to complete the degree by taking only evening courses.

Bard Travel Program

A unique opportunity for all MA students is the Bard Travel Program. Students in good standing who have satisfied the language require­ment are eligible to attend an intensive study trip under the direction of a BGC faculty member. The trip takes place in the late spring and is led by the professor then teaching the Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. The BGC covers airfare, lodg­ing, entrance fees, and ground transportation. In past years, students have traveled to England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, France, China, Japan, Holland, Sweden, Finland, and Spain for a unique series of visits to museums, private homes, and collections. Students keep a log and make a presentation while abroad. Details of the Bard Travel Program, including the scheduled time of the trip, are subject to change. Please consult the Academic Programs Office for up-to-date details.

BGC Exchange Programs

In 2009 the Bard Graduate Center launched student exchange programs with two overseas partner institutions: the Royal College of Art/V&A Program in Design History and the Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar (Art History Department) of Humboldt University in Berlin. Each institution will run a competition to select a single student to spend up to a term in external residence. Credits will be awarded via the home institution. He or she will have access to the resources of the local institution and be expected to fulfill all local requirements. Additional international partnerships are being created.
For additional information about the Royal College of Art/V&A Program and the Humboldt exchange program, contact Dean Elena Pinto Simon in the Academic Programs Office.

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