Curatorial Option


The Curatorial Option in MAPH allows students to focus specifically on the object-driven research and skills that are central to the discipline of Art History as well as to professional or scholarly careers in museums, collections, and exhibition spaces. In keeping with humanistic research at the University of Chicago, the MAPH Curatorial Option distinguishes itself from curatorial studies programs by complementing specialized training with disciplinary and interdisciplinary study as an intellectual foundation for curatorial practice. MAPH students can take all of their classes in Art History, or explore offerings in other subjects, such as East Asian Languages and Civilizations, English, the Social Sciences, Theater and Performance Studies, and Visual Arts.

Selected Faculty


Bill Brown

Critical Theory, Literature and the Arts, Visual Culture and Iconography

Sample Courses

Students choose from courses offered by faculty in Art History and other departments focused on museums, collections, or object-driven research, as well as annual courses offered at the Art Institute of Chicago through the Rhoades Exchange Program and Chicago Objects Study Initiative; the Suzanne Deal Booth Seminars in Conservation and Conservation Science; and seminars regularly taught by curatorial staff at the Smart Museum, Neubauer Collegium Exhibitions, and Logan Center Exhibitions.

Outside of the classroom, students benefit from the expertise and mentorship of museum professionals at these institutions and the Oriental Institute Museum, the Campus and Public Art Collections, the Visual Resources Center, the Center for the Art of East Asia, the Regenstein Library’s Special Collections, the Renaissance Society, and more.

Sample courses include:

ARTV 2/30008 Ways of Curating and Collecting (Yesomi Umolu)
This seminar takes stock of contemporary currents in curating and collecting practices at a time when we are experiencing rapid expansion of the museum sector internationally, and witnessing the growing ubiquity of “curation” within the spheres of leisure, culture, entertainment and tourism. Using institutions across campus, the city of Chicago and beyond as our primary locus, we will explore curatorial and collecting strategies. Students will work through a series of independent and collaborative assignments as well as a final project that integrates curatorial theory and practice.

ARTH 2/33807 Rhoades Seminar: Art, War, & Pageantry in Medieval & Early Modern Europe (Jonathan Tavares) 
With a focus on object-based study, lectures will analyze the collections at the Art Institute of Chicago including: armor, edged weapons, textiles, prints, rare books and many other facets of this martial culture. Students will be encouraged to engage with this cultural history of warfare and pageantry as it relates to their own fields of interest and explore the broad and definite impact of conflict on the arts of design.

ARTH 2/37800 The Material Science of Art: Suzanne Deal Booth Conservation Seminar (Lisa Zaher)
This course introduces undergraduate and graduate students to the methods and theories that inform the scientific analysis and treatment of art objects. Focusing on material investigations of painting, sculpture, works on paper, film and video, students will learn about the material make-up of art objects by employing visual analysis alongside scientific analysis and imaging, using resources on campus and at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

For an extended listing of classes and descriptions, visit the Art History course page.

The Curatorial Option

Students will be advised in their course selection by the Art History MAPH Advisor, in addition to their thesis advisor. Students who complete the following requirements will receive a Curatorial Option notation on their MAPH transcript:

  • MAPH Core Course
  • Approaches to Art History
  • Three elective classes in Art History with at least one focused on museums, collections, object-driven skills, and/or curatorial practice
  • An MA thesis in art history written under the supervision of an Art History faculty member, university-based curator, or relevant faculty member from another department
  • A minimum of one related extra-curricular professional workshop in areas including public speaking, writing for general audiences, collections management, and fundraising
  • A related internship is highly recommended but not required

Recent Curatorial Thesis Projects

"An Art Collection Focused on Inquiry: The Case for an Archive"
Jill Ingrassia-Zingales, MAPH '18
Advisor: Christine Mehring

"After the Trace"
Jesse Soodalter, MAPH '15
Advisor: Agnes Lugo-Ortiz

"Performance Curation: Notes Toward a Practice"
Abigail Sebaly, MAPH '10
Advisor: David Levin

MAPH Alumni in Curatorial Roles


Tyler Blackwell, MAPH '18
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Associate Curator, Blaffer Museum, University of Houston

"MAPH really helped me to more firmly establish the necessary foundations of theory, scholarly rigor, and methodological practices that I think are extremely important for any art museum curator. I am also especially grateful for the flexibility MAPH allowed for in terms of course offerings, thesis development, and faculty resources."

Amanda Block, MAPH '15
Research Assistant to the Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Art Institute of Chicago

"The research and writing skills that I developed through MAPH continue to be absolutely essential to my work on a daily basis. Cultivating a broad understanding of the humanities while at the same time rigorously training as an art historian has proven critical to my work––not only my understanding of the museum's collection and exhibition program but also of the audiences we seek to engage."

Erica Cooke, MAPH '11
Research Fellow in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, New York)

"MAPH gave me the ability to think historically about the curatorial projects that I’m involved in. Also writing skills are necessary for any curatorial work (from research to loan letters to exhibition catalogue essays to wall didactics) and my classes at UChicago were especially notable for assigning writing exercises with exceptional range."

Flavia Frigeri, MAPH '08
Independent Curator and Teaching Fellow, History of Art Department, University College London

"MAPH helped me develop a greater understanding of key art historical discourses that I find myself constantly coming back to when developing an idea for an exhibition.  Secondly and perhaps most importantly, it was during my time at UChicago that I identified my so-called field of expertise, namely Post-war Italian art."