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Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
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Historical + interpretive studies

A Humanities Major in the Arts

Students can major or minor in art history, pursue a minor in architectural history, or work toward earning a museum studies certificate. Students have the opportunity to hold internships or assistantships at Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art, known particularly for its strong holdings in American, African American, and contemporary art.

Advanced studies with renowned scholars

Our M.A. and Ph.D. programs provide candidates with the opportunity to pursue advanced study directly with renowned scholars. The department’s faculty are internationally recognized scholars and critics known for their dedication to their students.

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Research + publications

Penn State Art History students, faculty, and staff are involved in a broad range of research initiatives. We invite you to explore.

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Featured Research

Fabrication: Virtual and Material Approaches to Global Textiles

CVMS will focus attention to fibers and fabrics–materials with which most art historians are unfamiliar despite their substantial impact on the arts. The art historical significance of textiles cannot be overstated. Culturally significant ornament and imagery have been woven and sewn since antiquity. Textiles of linen and silk have provided the support for global painting practices for centuries. Patterning of the most delicate and sophisticated variety has appeared in lace and embroidery as much as in sculpture and architecture. Some of the most urgent economic and humanitarian issues of the modern era–the global transit of materials along trajectories of colonial power, the enslavement or exploitation of workers, the gendering and racialization of labor, the swelling of consumer culture–have been most impactful in the context of textile production. 

The September 27th opening celebration introduced the center’s inaugural research theme, “Fabrication: Virtual and Material Approaches to Global Textiles,” and  highlighted the research project “Flax: First Fiber of the Arts,” an interdisciplinary research project that combines scholarship with ancient, hands-on methods of growing and harvesting flax to be used in the arts.


Art History awarded Mellon Foundation grant to develop and host Sawyer Seminar

In Fall 2022 the Sawyer Seminar entitled “Transmission, Containment, Transformation: A Comparative Approach to Architecture and Contagion in Early Modern Cities ” extended the conversation to the sensorial realm and continues encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue across continents. It concluded with a series of academic events focusing on taste and fragrances coloring life in early modern South Asia and New Spain.

Degrees +

Student participating in the Borland Project Space

B.A. in Art History

The B.A. in Art History offers an opportunity for students to explore and examine art while developing a deep understanding of how and why it brings the world closer.
Art History graduate investigating an artifact from the African Brilliance exhibition.

M.A. in Art History

Program Application Deadline The deadline for applications for AY 2023–24 is January 15, 2023. To be assured full consideration, please apply by this deadline. Review individual program descriptions for details...
Students examining archives in Special Collections Library

Ph.D. in Art History (+Dual Ph.D.)

Advanced study of visual arts spanning periods, cultures, and geographies. The Art History Ph.D. program – with Asian Studies or Visual Studies dual-title options – can deepen your expertise and advance your Art History career.
A 20th century decorated wooden box called a Tukula container produced by Kuba carvers from the Democratic Rebublic of the Congo.

Art History Minor

Explore art from ancient to contemporary times, in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. This minor relates visual images to the big questions of humanity.
Students sitting at the ruins of Paestum, sketching the architecture.

Architectural History Minor

The Architectural History minor teaches exceptional visual acuity and analysis. You will better understand space, design processes, and construction practice within historical periods.
A public collection of late artwork displayed at the Palmer Museum of Art. A student explains the meaning of the piece to visitors.

Museum Studies Certificate

Learn the fundamentals of museum studies. Explore the history, theory, and practice of institutional collecting and conservation. Engage in a technical investigation of art.

News from A&A

College of Arts and Architecture to honor Alumni Award recipients on Oct. 14

The 2022 Alumni Award recipients will be recognized on Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium.

The College of Arts and Architecture will honor its 2022 Alumni Award recipients during an in-person ceremony, open to the public, on Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in the Palmer

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Center for Virtual/Material Studies to hold opening celebration on Sept. 27

An opening celebration for the Center for Virtual/Material Studies will be held on Sept. 27.
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Art History, IST research project receives second NEH grant to study Constable’s clouds

“After Constable’s Clouds” is Phase 2 of “Seeing Constable’s Clouds,” which was supported by a level 1 NEH grant.
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Faculty Spotlight

Selected Publications by Daniel Zolli
Selected Publications by Daniel Zolli

Daniel Zolli

Assistant Professor of Art History

Daniel Zolli (he/him/his) is a scholar of early modern European art, with a focus on art in fourteenth-, fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy. His research interests include the materials and techniques of art; workshop practice; art’s theorization in oral tradition and popular folklore; and its interfaces with law. His current book project, entitled Donatello’s Promiscuous Technique, examines that sculptor’s life-long preoccupation with material experimentation. It argues that Donatello cultivated a practice, and a professional persona, willfully at odds with period efforts to locate sculpture among the “liberal arts.” Donatello took his models instead from cunning enterprises aimed at transforming or dissimulating matter (e.g., prestidigitation, cosmetics, alchemy, idolatry, counterfeiting, adulteration), staking his authority on an ability to deceive viewers, and cloud their judgment, through a near-elemental craftiness.

Headshot of Penn State Assistant Professor of Art History Daniel Zolli

Centers + Venues

Our broad program offerings are supported by rich research, archive, and display spaces.
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Art History graduate student digitally investigating color on a painting.
Art History graduate student digitally investigating color on a painting.

Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art, a dramatic structure designed by Charles W. Moore, is the most prominent visual arts facility on the University Park

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Art History graduate student digitally investigating color on a painting.

Borland Project Space

The Borland Project Space (BPS) illuminates the vibrant research culture of the College of Arts & Architecture. With this initiative we move beyond traditional

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Art History graduate student digitally investigating color on a painting.

Center for Virtual/Material Studies

The Center for Virtual/Material Studies (CVMS) supports research in both Technical and Digital Art History with the aim of fostering synthetic, collaborative scholarship across

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Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

Cali Buckley

Ph.D. in Art History (+Dual Ph.D.) 2017

Cali Buckley is the Content Manager of Education and Intellectual Property at CAA in New York City. At her multifaceted job she coordinate grants, awards, and juries; affiliated societies; the RAAMP program (Resources for Academic Art Museum Professionals); and will be putting together new programs for education and professional development. She participates in Museums and Humanities Advocacy Days asking Congress to consider funding the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Fulbright-Hays program.

zoom meeting museum discussion
woman accepting award