The Bachelor of Arts 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 will prepare you 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.

Program Requirements

The major in art history will familiarize you with the diversity of research objects, methodological approaches, and theoretical concerns of the discipline.

Through coursework, students learn how to carry out independent research in art history. As an art history student, you will learn to:

  • Engage visual material
  • Identify critical issues in research related to specific contexts
  • Evaluate and integrate information gleaned from textual and non-textual sources
  • Synthesize, create, and present complex arguments succinctly and effectively in writing and other formats
  • Understand how art mediates ethical questions

Students take courses covering various periods and regions to gain breadth and depth of art historical knowledge. They may also develop specific areas of emphasis in consultation with faculty members and the undergraduate advisor.

Graduates from the major in art history are able to:

  • Engage visual material. The program teaches how to carry out visual and formal analyses. You will learn to look closely, and gain an appropriate vocabulary for discussing art and the visual and built environments from various geographical and historical contexts. You will also recognize the specificity of the diverse media and materials used in art and visual and material culture.
  • Identify art historical and critical arguments. You will be able to explain the art-historical significance of objects, artistic practices, and visual and built traditions in relation to major debates in relevant subfields. You will also be acquainted with the key discourses and positions that undergird the historical development of art history's academic discipline and apply them to your study and research.
  • Carry out research. You will learn to analyze, compare, and evaluate, and integrate different forms of information in visual art and art historical research. You will be able to use the UBC Music, Art and Architecture Library and associated research tools toward your independent research.
  • Share new ideas about art. You will learn to mobilize your research findings to generate and communicate new arguments on visual material.
  • Understand the ethical implications of the production, circulation, and display of artworks, as well as the ethics of visual culture and its capacity for social change. You will be able to analyze, evaluate, and produce informed qualitative judgments on these questions.

  • Students take any 12 credits in 100- or 200-level ARTH.
    • We strongly recommend taking ARTH 101 and/or ARTH 102 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 completing at least 3 credits in 100- or 200-level art history and accumulating at least 27 credits.

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

*Students should take courses serving the area of emphasis and breadth requirements at the upper-level, and they must determine them in consultation with the undergraduate advisor.

Students may count no more than 6 credits of cross-listed courses (indicated in course descriptions as "Equivalent: xxx") offered by other departments toward the minimum requirements for the BA major in art history.

Art history majors seeking to develop a track toward specialized graduate study in art history or other disciplines, such as architecture or visual art, are advised to consider an area of emphasis. Students should determine this in consultation with the undergraduate advisor and a faculty member.

Students can declare an emphasis in either a geographical, chronological, or thematic area of focus 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 to bring more depth to their study.

Language study is essential to art history and visual art. We urge students planning on graduate studies to prioritize studying a language relevant to their field of research. Languages are a great asset in the professional world and can be particularly useful in pursuing a career in the arts.

Career Opportunities in Art History

The degree offers the 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. Every fall, we hold an information session for third- and fourth-year art history students about the MA and PhD programs at UBC, application procedures, and language and course requirements.

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

Art history provides a critical foundation for analyzing visual and material culture and an in-depth understanding of media, old and new. Our graduates excel in analyzing and integrating different modes of knowledge and can communicate and share this information clearly and succinctly. 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.

Declare the Major

Course Planning

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