Taught course

Art History: Technical Art History, Making and Meaning

University of Glasgow · Department of History of Art

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for postgraduate taught programmes are a 2.1 Honours degree or equivalent qualification (for example, GPA 3.0 or above) in a relevant subject unless otherwise specified. Note: A minimum 2.1 in History of Art or a related subject is required. You should also submit a writing sample of 2-3,000 words, a CV and a personal statement. Further information regarding academic entry requirements: student.recruitment@glasgow.ac.uk

Months of entry


Course content

Through object-based, interdisciplinary research, this Masters programme lets you examine the story every art work tells: the story of its making and meaning; the material choices made by the artist; and its survival more or less unharmed, through time. Researching this all-inclusive story of an artefact is known as technical art history. It is an exciting and rapidly growing field involving art historians, conservators and scientists, while also reaching out to other disciplines such as economic and social history, anthropology and aesthetics.

Why Glasgow

  • In the most recent independent review of research quality (RAE 2008), History of Art at Glasgow was rated the highest of all universities in the UK.
  • You will be able to work with objects and benefit from staff contacts: including those with the City Collections, the University’s Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, the National Museums and the National Galleries of Scotland.

  • You will take a five-day study trip to a European city.
  • You have the opportunity to take part in a project-based work placement engaging in interdisciplinary research, where you can explore a possible future career while meeting professional practitioners and developing your skills and experience.
  • You will have an opportunity to plan, organise and design a venue-based exhibition of a group of objects from a museum collection. The whole process, from planning, selection, through research, design and interpretation will be undertaken with support from museum and School of Culture and Creative Arts staff.
  • Our research forum provides you with a lively and stimulating introduction to methodological debates within art history. It provides a sense of art history’s own history as well as contemporary concerns and practice, examining the beliefs and values that have informed various forms of historical and visual analysis and enquiry. It is focused around a series of seminars or workshops run by members of staff and visiting academics.

Programme Structure

Drawing upon the expertise of an interdisciplinary team, the programme will include taught and research components as well as practical workshops and work placements.

This MLitt develops your expertise to determine the authenticity, attribution and dating of art works – as well as their change and survival. You do not need any background in science or conservation. We will provide you with the right tools to understand what science can deliver, what conservators can do, and what role you can play in this truly interdisciplinary field.

You will take five core courses and one optional course, this is followed by a period of self-study towards a dissertation on a topic chosen by you with the approval of your supervisor.

Core courses

  • Research methods in practice
  • Art in the making: historical techniques
  • Art in the making: modern and Avant-Garde techniques
  • The authentic art work
  • Testimonies on painters' practice: documentary and visual sources.

You may choose from the following options in the College of Arts

  • a Humanities Advanced Technology & Information Institute (HATII) course: 2D Digitisation (Theory and Practice)
  • a course from elsewhere in the College of Arts, subject to the approval of the programme convenor.

Or from these courses run by History of Art

  • Work placement
  • Independent study
  • Hunterian placement.


This one-year Masters programme is unique within academic art history departments in the UK and internationally. The University of Glasgow is the first to offer this new and fascinating course with its strong focus on object-based, interdisciplinary research which examines the story every art work tells: the story of its making and meaning, of the material choices made by the artist, and of its survival more or less unharmed, through time. Object-based research can be used to establish the story line, and aided by art historical and art technological source research, as well as scientific analysis, the plot may be revealed.

Researching the all-inclusive story of an artefact is very much the objective of what is now generally called technical art history, a recently emerging interdisciplinary research area linking together art historians, conservators and conservation scientists, but also reaching out to other disciplines such as social and economic history and aesthetics. Technical art history embraces every aspect of artistic production, from the pigment trade and manufacturing to idiosyncratic preparation methods by a single artist or workshop, from medieval monasteries to Barbizon en plein air, from autograph to workshop collaboration: ‘It acknowledges – celebrates – the artist at work and the act of making’ (David Bomford, in Looking through Paintings, ed. E. Hermens, London/Baarn, 1998: 12).

Technical art history embraces a holistic research approach, taking in all aspects of the art work: material, conceptual, contextual. This programme will give you a thorough introduction to this new research field and the different aspects of it. You do not need any background in science or conservation as the course is intended to provide you with the right tools to understand what science can deliver, what conservators can do, and what role you can play in this truly interdisciplinary field. This will equip you very well for working with collections, in a museum or gallery environment, or in a commercial atmosphere such as auction houses. It will also prepare you very well for a postgraduate education in painting conservation, or further postgraduate research.

The programme is part of the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, which is housed in newly refurbished conservation laboratories in the University’s Robertson Building – it shares space with the Textile Conservation programme. The facilities include student workrooms, a wet lab, dye lab, chemistry lab and a well-equipped analytical lab.

The teaching programme will include a study trip to a European city. In February 2013, this was Amsterdam.

Information for international students

IELTS: overall score 6.5 IELTS: no sub-test less than 6.0 ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 20 CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): B minimum CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English): C minimum PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59

Fees and funding

UK students
International students


Qualification and course duration


part time
24 months
full time
12 months

Course contact details

Erma Hermens