BA Major in Art History Program

The BA Major in Art History introduces students to the critical study of the plurality of forms of expression, both historic and contemporary, that inform the visual and built environment today. The major prepares students to critically engage objects, spaces, visual traditions, and artistic practices from a broad range of periods and cultural contexts, and the diverse approaches and theories in the discipline essential to their study.

BA Major in Art History Program Requirements

The BA Major in Art History is designed to progressively familiarize students with the diversity of objects of research, methodological approaches, and theoretical concerns of the discipline.

Through coursework students learn how to carry out independent research in art history: they learn how to engage visual material; identify critical issues in research as it relates to specific contexts; evaluate and integrate information gleaned from textual and non-textual sources; and to synthesise, create, and present complex arguments, succinctly and effectively, in writing and other formats.

Students take courses covering a variety of periods and regions, so as to gain breadth and depth of art historical knowledge; students may also develop specific areas of emphasis in consultation with faculty members and the Undergraduate Advisor.

Lower Level

Students take any 12 credits in 100- or 200-level ARTH. ARTH 101 and/or ARTH 102 are strongly recommended as an introduction to the discipline. Students may count 6 credits of Visual Art courses (VISA) towards these 12 credits. Students may declare the major program upon the completion of at least 3 credits in 100- or 200-level Art History and the accumulation of at least 27 credits.

Upper Level

The minimum requirements for the major in art history are 30 credits in the upper level (typically taken in the third and fourth years). These credits must include:

  • 3 credits of ARTH 300 (Seminar on Methods and Approaches in Art History)
  • 15 credits in a geographical, chronological, or thematic area of emphasis*
  • 9 credits in areas that are distinct from the emphasis*
  • 3 credits in a 400-level art history seminar

* Courses serving the area of emphasis and breadth requirements are taken at the upper level, and must be determined in consultation with the
Undergraduate Advisor, Greg Gibson.

No more than 6 credits of cross-listed courses (indicated in course descriptions as “Equivalent: xxx”) offered by other departments may be counted toward the minimum requirements for the BA major in art history.

Developing an Area of Emphasis

Art history majors seeking to develop a track toward specialized graduate study in art history, or in other disciplines, such as architecture or visual art, are advised to consider an area of emphasis. This should be determined in conjunction with the Undergraduate Advisor and a faculty member.

An emphasis can be declared in either a historical, geographic or thematic area of concentration upon completion of 15 credits in relevant upper-level courses. In addition to courses offered within the department, students should also consider relevant coursework outside of art history, in related fields, as a way to bring more depth to their study.

Language study is essential to art history and visual art. Students planning on graduate study in the discipline are urged to prioritize study of a language relevant to their field of research. Languages are moreover a great asset in the professional world, and can be particularly useful in pursuing a career in the arts.

What Next?

The undergraduate program in art history prepares students for a variety of careers, including in education, the arts and cultural heritage, and beyond.

The degree offers a first step for those seeking to develop careers in art and cultural heritage institutions, such as art galleries, artist-run centres, and museums, in areas including curating, administration, and conservation, as well as publishing. Students seeking to pursue a career in the arts may wish to consider advanced graduate study in art history. An orientation meeting for third- and fourth-year art history students is held every fall to inform them about the MA and PhD programs at UBC, application procedures, and language and course requirements.

Beyond art history, in combination with visual art courses, the program can provide a strong base for students interested in specializing in related fields, such as arts practice or architecture and design, or for those who wish to enter graduate studies in other areas of the humanities, law, or education.

More generally, art history provides a critical foundation for the analysis of visual and material culture, and an in-depth understanding of media, old and new. Because of the wide array of skills necessary to art historical research (including textual and visual analysis, historical research, and linguistic proficiency), the program forms critical and creative thinkers who excel in analyzing and integrating different modes of knowledge and are able to communicate and share this information in a clear and succinct manner. These skills are of obvious use across fields of economic activity: graduates of this program are thus able to develop careers beyond those most immediately related to art history.