A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level preparation in art history will have to complete 36 credits to fulfill the requirements for the art history and visual culture studies major. Courses completed in the major apply to the fine arts and cultural pluralism (selected courses) distribution areas.

The major: A minimum of 36 credits, including Art History 103, 490, at least one 300-level course and one non-Western course. A maximum of two approved courses from outside the department may be used to satisfy major requirements. This includes credit from off-campus programs, transfer credit, and appropriate Whitman courses that focus on the functions and/or production of visual culture (including all studio art courses). The senior assessment is administered during the final semester of study. Students research and deliver an oral presentation on an art historical object of their choice and write a critical review on an assigned piece of contemporary art historical scholarship. 

Students interested in writing a thesis enroll in ARTH 421 (2 credits) in their final fall semester to develop an independent study proposal and annotated bibliography. If approved by AHVCS faculty, the proposal moves to the thesis writing stage as ARTH 493 (4 credits) for the senior's spring semester.

Honors in the major: Students do not apply for honors. Honors in Major Study will be conferred to students who: 1) receive an A- or higher in Senior Thesis (Arth 493), 2) pass the senior assessment with distinction; and 3) attain a 3.30 cumulative gpa and a 3.50 major gpa by graduation. The department will notify the Registrar's Office of students attaining Honors in Major Study by the third week in April for spring honors thesis candidates, and students' registration will then be changed from Senior Thesis to Honors Thesis (Arth 498).Two copies of the Honors Thesis must be submitted to Penrose Library no later than Reading Day.

The minor: A minimum of 18 credits, including Art History 103. With the approval of the department chair, one course from outside the department may be used to satisfy the minor requirements.

For the art history and visual culture studies major with an art studio minor, no course may satisfy both the major and minor requirements. When the same class is required in both the major and minor, an additional class will be required after it has been approved by the art history and visual culture studies department.

The P-D-F option may not be used for the major or minor.

Learning goals

Major-specific areas of knowledge:

  • Demonstrate an ability to critically situate artists, movements, artworks, artifacts, exhibitions and other visual practices within larger historical frameworks.
  • Demonstrate a familiarity with the historiography of the study of visual texts and artifacts.
  • Demonstrate a facility with contemporary cross and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of visual texts and artifacts.
  • Understand the interconnectedness of cultural production across different geographic and historical contexts.

Accessing academic community/resources:

  • Retrieve and evaluate relevant resources from libraries, databases, archives and collections.


  • Express ideas cogently through forms of oral and written communication, including visual analyses, in-class presentations, reviews, curatorial texts, research papers and examinations.

Critical thinking:

  • Synthesize, assess and apply existing scholarship to the study of visual texts and artifacts.
  • Analyze visual texts and artifacts through their socio-political roles, cultural and market values, materiality, iconology, aesthetics and ethics.

Research experience:

  • Generate original analyses of artists, movements, artworks, artifacts, exhibitions and other visual practices based on primary and secondary sources.