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Programs / Arts / Art History

Program Details

In Art History, we study the realm of visual communication, from the canon of Western art to Canadian and aboriginal art, architecture, photography, prints, popular culture, and the arts of non-Western societies. Our material ranges from the prehistoric period to the present day. As an Art History student you will gain not only a historical framework for understanding imagery, but also a methodological awareness of the multiple possibilities for interpreting art and other visual phenomena. An Art History BA, moreover, prepares you with invaluable skills for any number of professions. Such skills include oral and written articulation; the ability to identify, critically assess, and analyze research materials; the ability to creatively problem-solve; the love of learning; critical thinking; technological skills related to visual and verbal communication; and the ability to work independently and in groups.

Students in third or fourth year can take advantage of the program’s practicum option, in which they can get real-world experience working in institutions such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of History, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Carleton University Art Gallery, and Library and Archives Canada.

In the Art History program at Carleton University, you will be taught both by professors with a keen understanding of art history and by seasoned museum professionals with extensive working experience in the field. Students in the art history program in Carleton’s School for Studies in Art and Culture have access not only to a wide variety of courses but also to the resources of the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG). At over 27,000 works, CUAG’s holdings are rich in Canadian art (especially works on paper), Inuit art and European prints created from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Faculty regularly use the CUAG as a teaching collection and the art gallery offers practicum placements, an annual research assistantship and summer employment to qualified students. In addition, innovative second-year courses prepare students with hands-on experience of the art, architecture and institutions in the national capital.

The university’s location in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, places you in the heart of Canada’s major cultural resources, providing unparalleled access to both personnel and research materials.

Ottawa is home to the National Gallery of Canada, renowned nationally and internationally for its outstanding collections (including the most important collection of Canadian art in the world) and exhibitions. The Gallery also boasts the most extensive collection of European art in the country. Other important Canadian organizations in Ottawa include:

  • the Canadian Museum of Civilization;
  • the Canadian War Museum; and
  • both Library and Archives Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, which provide excellent research opportunities not available anywhere else in the country.

Art History

BA (General) in Art History

The Bachelor of Arts (General) program is normally completed in three years and requires 15.0 credits—6.5 of which must be in Art History. This program is designed for those interested in a liberal arts education with an emphasis on art history. As with the Honours program, the General BA program is designed to provide students with a breadth of knowledge in the field of art history.

BA (Honours) in Art History

The four-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) program is a rigorous and extensive study of art history and requires 20.0 credits, of which 10.0 credits are in art history. This program is designed for those contemplating studies at the graduate level or who wish to work in museology or related fields.

Honours students may also decide to pursue a Combined Honours program that joins art history and another discipline.

Both the General and Honours programs require that students take three first-year 0.5-credit survey courses (Art and Society: Prehistory to the Renaissance, Art and Society: Renaissance to the Present and History and Theory of Architecture 2 [1600 to the present]).

Second-year courses cover a wide range of chronology—from ancient to contemporary art and architecture—and geography, from Aboriginal Canadian to Asian art. Third-year courses delve deeper into a range of topics of interest, from French Impressionism to Canadian Architecture to the study of a selected Museum Exhibition in the region.

Students must also take courses at the third- or-fourth-year level and all Honours students take a full-year, 1.0 credit course in the methodologies and research tools employed by art historians to prepare them for advanced study.

As a senior student, you will take seminars that provide significant contact with faculty members and encourage active research. Since the ability to read historical art material in a language other than English is important for advanced studies in art history, you will be encouraged to develop competence in another language pertinent to your specific field of interest in art history.

Minor in Art History

Students concentrating in other disciplines may choose to complete a minor in Art History, which requires 4.0 credits in Art History.

Practicum (internship) opportunity

The Art History program offers you a unique practicum opportunity. Senior students who maintain satisfactory standing will be able to receive up to one credit for working on special projects in an Ottawa museum or cultural institution.

A sample first year (Art History)

  • 0.5 credit in Art and Society: Prehistory to the Renaissance
  • 0.5 credit in Art and Society: Renaissance to the Present
  • 0.5 credit in History and Theory of Architecture 2: 1600 to Present
  • 1.0 credit in any First-year Seminar
  • 0.5 credits in arts and social sciences electives


First-year Seminars

First-year BA students are strongly encouraged to include a First-year Seminar (FYSM) in their first-year course selection. Our First-year Seminars will get you away from the lecture hall and give you the chance, in a small class of around 30, to discuss and debate topics with your classmates and your professors.

The workplace

Many graduates of art history build careers, often after study at the graduate level, in professions such as education, museum and art gallery work, work in cultural heritage or the art market.

An Art History BA also prepares students with invaluable skills for any number of professions, including oral and written articulation, the ability to identify, critically assess, and analyze research materials, the ability to creatively problem-solve, the love of learning, critical thinking, technological skills related to visual and verbal communication, the ability to work independently and in groups, as well as an acumen with visual communication and a knowledge of world cultures.

Graduate studies

Carleton also offers a Master of Arts program entitled Art History: Art and Its Institutions. The program is unique in its approach to art history through the concept of the institution as both material site (museum, art galleries, etc.) and discourse (art history, gender, ethnicity, etc.). Access to the numerous cultural institutions in the National Capital Region offers students unique opportunities for primary archival research and study of museum practice.

If you think that you may wish to pursue an advanced degree, you are encouraged to investigate graduate programs early to ensure that your current undergraduate program meets the relevant requirements.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including teaching and journalism, are interested in attracting well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds. An art history degree provides a strong foundation for such programs, and you are encouraged to pursue interests you may have in these fields after completing your undergraduate degree. Students of architectural history and theory may enter architectural programs at the graduate level.

What students are saying about Art History

Studying Art History at Carleton University has been a great experience. Although the first-year class seems a bit intimidating on the first day, the material discussed far outweighs any apprehensions one might have. The professors here at Carleton are very willing to help and enjoy very much the interaction with students, and as the years progress the material addressed becomes more and more interesting with depth that you can’t even comprehend in first year.
Erika Friesen, Art History student