Art History Paths of Inquiry


Curatorial Studies and Cultural Heritage

Many of our faculty members engage in curatorial practice as consultants and curators for museums in Canada and abroad, and in cultural heritage work through their research and teaching on the institutions, conservation, and management of cultural objects, including institutions such as UNESCO. Students are introduced to the theory and practice of curatorship and cultural heritage through courses and internship opportunities at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and in museums, archives, and collections across Canada and internationally.



Digital Technology and Virtual Art History

Supported by advanced digital facilities, our innovative and experimental approaches to scholarship and pedagogy tap the growing potential of digital technologies to research, archive and disseminate local and transnational histories of visual and material cultures. Several ongoing digital humanities initiatives in the Department are linked by a shared interest in the interactive capacities of digital technologies and their potential to facilitate new forms of data visualization and mapping across the global arts.



European Art

Our faculty conduct and support innovative teaching and research with exceptional expertise in later medieval art, Renaissance and Baroque art, nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, and photography. Student have opportunities to collaborate with faculty in planning exhibitions, researching the production and reception of historical artefacts, and tracing the history and global impact of European art and artists from the Middle Ages to the present. Graduate students are eligible to apply for the Bader travel grant for PhD research on European art.



Global Encounters

The circulation of art and ideas around the world is a key component of courses on topics in medieval and Renaissance art, the arts of Latin America, and the global Baroque and Rococo. We are interested in such issues as the art of the African diaspora, the transmission of forms and typologies during the crusade, art and slavery, and artistic hybridity between European and non-European peoples. For some recent work in this area, see Photo: Maison Pépin, Île de Gorée, Senegal, 1780–84.



Histories of Architecture

In teaching and research, our faculty explore how architecture shapes and structures human experience. Students have opportunities through field trips and class projects to examine and even recreate architecture from the Middle Ages to the present. Faculty expertise encompasses Romanesque and Gothic architecture, architecture of the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods from Europe to Asia and Africa, the Gothic Revival, German Modernism, and issues of Cultural Heritage and preservation.



Indigenous Arts and Material Culture

Courses and research take a global approach to contemporary Indigenous arts and the ancient traditions from which they developed. We study the ethics, aesthetics, and politics of Indigenous visual and material culture in the context of issues such as the colonial and post-colonial world, the environment, and cultural sovereignty. Students and faculty engage in community-based research and collaborative projects with contemporary artists, national and local museums, and Indigenous communities across North America, including the Arctic, to develop innovative scholarship, exhibitions, and research that informs and empowers.



Material Culture Studies

From the weeping polychrome sculptures of the Middle Ages to beaded moccasins of the nineteenth century, the material and even spiritual properties of things are central to our teaching and research. A central component of Material Culture Studies is the proposition that objects and environments are dynamic –– not only do they have lives and histories of their own, but they also have the ability to produce responses and the agency to affect the people who interact with them. We encourage students to learn about materials and materiality through hands-on experience, including collections-based courses, archival work, field trips, internships and study-abroad programs.



Technical Art History

Technical Art History is an innovative and interdisciplinary field that bridges Art History, science, and Art Conservation. Faculty and students employ cutting-edge technologies such as x-ray fluorescence and infrared photography to examine the materials and techniques used by artists past and present. Investigating the physical aspects of works of art enables scholars to gather data critical for a better understanding of when, where, why, how, and by whom an object was produced. This research provides unique insights into the genesis and original function of the object, and into an artist’s intentions and creative processes.



Art and Architecture in Canada

Art and architecture reflects and constitutes notions of place and identity within the contested, multi-cultural fabric of Canada. Aspects of image-making and the built environment are addressed in diverse thematic courses across a range of media, topics, and time periods. Courses and research projects examine the nature, development, and critique of “Canadian” art within the context of the social, political, and economic history of the country. Internships offer students the opportunity for hands-on professional experience working with a variety of original objects and Canadian heritage institutions, including archives, galleries, libraries, and museums.



Visual Culture Studies

More than ever before, visual imagery plays a key role in expressing and mediating human experience and understandings of the social, political and subjective dimensions of diverse cultures. For students in and beyond art history, visual literacy is critical to informed decision-making, clear communication, and responsible citizenship. Visual Culture Studies offers an expanded field for the study of how images of diverse kinds—from advertising to internet memes, from emojis to political propaganda—circulate, communicate, and effect social change. Ongoing research and pedagogical projects examine local and transnational visual cultures from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, informed by feminism, queer theory and critical race studies, as well as decolonization, globalization and transnationalism.