Being an art and archaeology major is really amazing — the department provides access to some of the best opportunities and resources on campus. To begin with, the Marquand Library
is a fantastic resource for majors (arguably one of the best art libraries in the world). Since the library is non-circulating, you'll always be able to find the books and journals you need right away. In addition to being an excellent resource, the art library has some of the most clean, comfortable, and convenient study spaces on campus. This is especially important during senior year when majors are assigned carrels in Marquand, rather than in the dingy basement of Firestone. Junior concentrators are also given tables on the second and third floors, as well as shelf space to store books for courses and independent work.
We also have the Princeton University Art Museum
at our disposal and are able to utilize its contents for many of our courses as well as for our independent work. Most art history classes hold regular precepts in the art museum. Some even meet in the museum study room, where students are allowed to handle works of art in storage. This ensures that you are never confined to a lecture hall or classroom and engaging only with digital images. With an impressive collection of art covering every period from ancient Greek and Roman to impressionism, medieval to pop art, the museum caters to virtually every student's interests and provides enriching, hands-on opportunities for studies. Additionally, it is very easy to talk to a rare books specialist and have instant access to the University's extensive prints collection, either for research or for your own enjoyment.
As for the workload, the art department is relatively flexible and allows you to shape your course of study to fit your interests. You take courses in a variety of different areas, which ensures a broad exposure to different cultures, time periods, and mediums, as well as the opportunity to focus on a particular area of interest. In addition, ART concentrators certainly have time to pursue certificates in other programs, regardless of whether or not the program relates to the student's art historical focus.
The department is large enough that there is always a variety of offerings in terms of courses, professors, and opportunities. You will never find yourself looking through the course listings and not finding a course that fits with your specific interests. All majors take the junior seminar (ART 400), which covers art historical methodologies and prepares us very well for our independent work. All of the advisers, faculty, and administrators in the department, as well as the staff members of Marquand Library, Visual Resources, and Princeton University Art Museum are extremely friendly and ready to assist you with your work however they can.
The independent work requirements are flexible — we're allowed to write about any aspect of art history that interests us. The fall JP coincides with the junior seminar. Your ART 400 professor also acts as your fall JP adviser, and in this way, students will always see their adviser on a weekly basis. Some majors choose to explore the same subjects in their spring JPs, while others choose completely new topics.
Senior theses are generally between 60 and 80 pages. Examples of past topics include an iconographic study of churches along an Italian pilgrimage route, an archaeological examination of black bronze from China, and an analysis of the interaction of financial markets in the 1960s pop art market. When it comes time to choosing a thesis adviser, majors have the benefit of being in one of the smallest departments on campus (measured by the number of majors, not professors). The fantastic student-to-professor ratio usually allows students to have their first pick for an adviser, rather than competing for a particular adviser.
Program 2, the visual arts track, follows a slightly different path, culminating not in a written thesis, but in a fully developed body of studio work to be presented in April and critiqued by advisers and faculty. Program 2 concentrators have access to the wonderful facilities and staff of the Lewis Center for the Arts, and program 2 is the closest you can come at Princeton to being a studio art major. Juniors and seniors are given studio space on the fourth floor of the building and a budget to buy materials for their projects. The resources of the Lewis Center are unparalleled and, though the course offerings are more limited than those of an art school, they are nevertheless strong and enriching. We have a print shop, black-and-white and digital photography labs, drawing and painting rooms, a sculpture and wood shop, and a ceramics studio. If you can envision it, Princeton has the resources to make it happen.
Program 3, the archaeology track, integrates scholarly preparation in archaeology with actual field experience. Program 3 majors typically work on a summer excavation project under the supervision of a professor who specializes in archaeology. Interdisciplinary in nature, program 3 may be of interest to students who enjoy both anthropology and art history since it provides a structured and engaging way to study ancient cultures.