Art History and Visual Culture Studies at Whitman

The discipline of art history and field of visual culture studies move across a spectrum of social and historical contexts and conceptual frameworks. Students taking courses in AHVCS focus on histories of artistic production and material culture. They investigate the lives of images, artifacts, and built environments, and consider how visual practices have shaped values, experience, identity and action.

Whitman College offers major and minor study programs in art history and visual culture studies. Both programs present a flexible and rigorous curriculum that incorporates perspectives from other fields, including Environmental Studies, Asian Studies, Race and Ethnic Studies, and German Studies. Our courses enable students to explore, understand and evaluate topics as diverse as the form and function of early Indo-Islamic architecture, European design theory and production, art and urban revitalization, and decolonizing the museum. Major and minor students become familiar with the history and historiography of visual texts, and contemporary interdisciplinary approaches to the study of representation in its multiple forms.

Alumni Reflections

Art History and Visual Culture Studies graduates go on to work in a host of fields. Many pursue advanced degrees and all continue to put the critical and creative skills they’ve acquired to use. A degree in AHVCS opens up an array of possibilities. Read more about the experiences of our graduates on the Alumni Reflections page and by clicking on their quotes. 

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Annotations & Announcements

  • Associate Professor of Art History & Visual Culture Studies Matt Reynolds Moderates Confluence Project Event

    May 20, 2021 • The Maxey Museum has an exciting new exhibition that was recently featured in The New York Times. "Along the Columbia: Maya Lin and the Confluence Project" was curated by Matt Reynolds and students Audrey Mace, Camille Marshall and Melina Waldman. It will be open throughout fall semester and by appointment over the summer. In 2018, the Confluence Project donated their archival materials to Whitman College. These include blueprints, site surveys, models and maquettes, drawings and sketches by Maya Lin and the artists, architects and engineers with whom she collaborated.

  • Lisa Uddin Papers, 2004-2014

    January 1, 2021 • The Lisa Uddin Papers consists of the research materials for Zoo Renewal: White Flight and the Animal Ghetto, adesign history of zoological parks in the United States. The collection spans from approximately 2004-2014, and contains ephemera and research materials from zoos in Detroit, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Seattle, San Diego, Portland, Rochester, Providence, Baltimore, and Toronto.The collection reflects Uddin's particular interest in the revitalization of the U.S. zoo space and institutional identity in the 1960s and 1970s as it pertains to urbanization, wildlife conservation, and American race relations.

  • Carol Shaeffer's Article 'Hatred in Plain Sight' Published in Smithsonian Magazine

    October 1, 2020 • Carol Shaeffer, a 2010 Whitman art history and visual culture studies major, is a freelance journalist and was a 2019-20 Fulbright scholar to Germany. Her article "Hatred in Plain Sight" appeared in the October 2020 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine. The article explores the continued existence and acceptance of a 700-year-old sculpture that openly denigrates jews. Shaeffer first researched and wrote about anti-Semitism during the middle ages as part of a medieval art history class she took in the AHVCS department at Whitman.

  • Sheehan Gallery Unveils 'Underground Hornship' Sculpture by Wangechi Mutu

    May 15, 2020 • Whitman College and the Sheehan Gallery are pleased to unveil "Underground Hornship," a bronze sculpture by renowned artist Wangechi Mutu. Art History and Visual Cultural Studies Associate Professor Lisa Uddin and Sheehan Gallery Director Daniel Forbes talk about the acquisition and Mutu's work.

  • New Scholarship on South Asian Portraiture

    April 7, 2020 • Professor Gulbransen recently published an essay in postmedieval entitled "Jahāngīrī portrait shasts: Material-discursive practices and visuality at the Mughal court.” This special issue of the journal (“Contact Zones: Fur, Minerals, Milk, and Other Things”) explores the role non-human objects play in constituting human identity. Gulbransen’s article explores the perceived animacy of gifted miniature bust portraits within early seventeenth-century Mughal court culture.