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Students examined table legs with curator Nick Humphrey in the Dr. Susan Weber Furniture Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Students in Paris outside the Hôtel de Beauharnais with past BGC Research Scholar and Visiting Professor Ulrich Leben.

This spring, for the second time, first-year MA students were offered two options for faculty-led study trips. For ten days in London or Paris, they gained insight into museum exhibition and conservation practices and made excursions to historic houses and aristocratic residences.

Paul Stirton, who led a group of ten MA students to London, organized an intensive program of museum and gallery tours, visits to town and country houses, vast public collections and intimate personal settings, as well as a few dashes across the city on double-decker buses. “We spanned the ages from Ancient Greece to contemporary Britain, from America to the Orient, and yet we seemed to constantly return to European decorative arts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” he said. The students were treated to a series of fascinating talks by curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, and Sir John Soane’s Museum, who explained the decisions made in selecting and displaying the works in their care, while also revealing some of the compromises made when assembling the narrative of a period, an individual, or a medium. “For me, the Robert Adam drawings in the Soane Museum, enthusiastically shown to us by Dr. Frances Sands, was a highlight, but I will always remember the seedy atmosphere of Dennis Severs’ silk-weaver’s house in Spittalfields.”

Meanwhile, Frejya Hartzell accompanied nine students who chose Paris as their destination. Organized by the École du Louvre and themed around French decorative arts and interiors of the First and Second Empires, the program was designed in anticipation of the exhibition, Charles Percier: Revolutions in Architecture and Design, opening at Bard Graduate Center Gallery in fall 2016. From informative lectures on exhibitions at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Louvre Museum, and the Musée d’Orsay, to exclusive tours of the private apartments of aristocrats, artists, and courtesans, plus behind-the-scenes visits to conservation workshops and storage facilities, the trip included something for everyone. Hartzell reported that it was a marvelous experience for all, one that “gave us all a well-rounded and deeply textured sense of life in nineteenth-century Paris through the lens of its ornate objects and sumptuous spaces.”