The Mellon grant will support the first cohort of art history curatorial students over three to five years, beginning this fall. "Our goal is to educate the next generation of informed, well-trained curators and serve as a model for curatorial education at the highest level," says Nina Kallmyer, professor and chair of art history.
Expanding on the art history Ph.D.
Most graduate programs in art history train students for work in academe, especially in teaching critical theory and the social history of art. To explore the idea of developing a curatorial program at UD, Kallmyer began canvassing her own curator friends and colleagues, then interviewing professional curators at major art institutions around the country. "All of them were trained in academic institutions and held ‘conventional’ art history doctoral degrees. But what all of them emphasized was the extent to which their job involved so much more than 'just' art history," says Kallmyer.
Art museum directors and curators reported essentially having to ‘learn the ropes’ on their own as they rose to leadership positions in their institutions. Faced daily with the issues and problems involved in managing and directing an art institution--many of them completely outside their expertise in art history--they found it necessary to learn on the job from their art conservators, their accountants, their public relations managers, their personnel directors, and so on.
For this reason, in addition to rigorous art historical training through graduate seminars, UD's curatorial track will expose students to a range of interdisciplinary areas that fall outside traditional art history education, including courses in museum studies, art conservation, public engagement and business and nonprofit management.
Capitalizing on established UD programs
A major asset at UD, explains Kallmyer, is the existence of established, world-renowned conservation and preservation studies programs, the Winterthur-UD Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) and the UD preservation studies program (PSP). Through their coursework in those programs, the art history students will focus on such topics as techniques and materials of paintings, examination and treatment of art objects, conservation ethics and research methods.
In addition, UD's museum studies program is already a valuable resource for many art history students, some of whom complete the graduate certificate in museum studies along with their graduate art history coursework, to broaden their skill set with a view to a future art museum career. Course options include collections management, museum education, exhibition design and organization and public engagement. Business-related coursework will be taken in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.
"I often meet students who wish to pursue a career in museum work but are frustrated by the lack of curatorial track Ph.D. programs," says Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College and former Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "This program's core curriculum, which requires courses in art history as well as conservation and administration, will attract excellent students from across the nation and world."