We offer a range of resources and guidance to help you navigate student life starting with your arrival at the August orientation session. Your time at BGC will be marked by many programs, workshops, and opportunities designed to enhance your academic experience. These continue through commencement and into your life after BGC with the many alumni-related networking opportunities and events that are offered.

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Every August, Bard Graduate Center welcomes the entering cohort with a required two-week orientation program. A mixture of workshops, language classes, social events, and training programs, orientation gives our new students an introduction to our many institutional resources. Evaluating language skills is an important part of this session and students will sit a diagnostic exam, offered in French, German, Italian and Spanish, on the first day. For those who do not pass this exam, there are two weeks of intensive brush-up classes before another exam is given on the last day of orientation.

The full program gives students the opportunity to meet with faculty and staff, receive key training in our Digital Media Lab and our Library, as well has experience their first field trips and discussions as new members of our community.

Focus Project
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Constructing arguments with material things is a mode of scholarship more readily associated with curators than with academics, who are rarely familiar with the challenges such work entails. Bard Graduate Center’s pioneering Focus Project aims to create faculty and students who are bilingual in both museum and academic modes of scholarly investigation.

Each Focus Project is proposed and led by a Bard Graduate Center faculty member or postdoctoral fellow in collaboration with interested students. Originating in faculty research, each project is developed through seminars and workshops that proceed from broad issues of conception and definition through the specific challenges of selection, layout, and interpretation in two and three dimensions. Students are closely involved from genesis through execution, contributing substantively to each project’s form and content. These academic teams are assisted by a professional gallery staff of curators, designers, and media specialists as well as the head of the Focus Project, a fellow faculty member with museum experience.

Two Focus Projects come to fruition each year, while several more are in different stages of development. Although each culminates in a public exhibition in our Gallery at 18 West 86th Street, complete with accompanying publications and/or digital interactives, the Focus Project is as much about process as product. By the time an exhibition opens, participants will have acquired hands-on experience of museum practice, from the development of a loan list to the editing of wall labels.

Topics reflect the range of interests and perspectives of Bard Graduate Center faculty, involving issues in the decorative arts, design history, and material culture studies. Past Focus Projects have investigated, among other topics, the fractal geometry of Benoît Mandelbrot; the role of actresses as fashion setters in the Belle Époque; a 1935 museum expedition to Burma; the 1500-year history of woven coca bags from the Andes; images of mid nineteenth-century New York City; the development of personal computer interfaces; the endurance of a 1960s conceptual artwork; European colonialism in Oceania; the 1853 New York Crystal Palace; and a Chinese book of ritual objects. Through the Focus Project, Bard Graduate Center aims not only to create better scholars and curators but to encourage a new and collaborative form of curatorial scholarship.

Digital Media Lab

Bard Graduate Center is committed to the integration of digital media throughout its academic programs, gallery exhibitions, and publishing endeavors. The Digital Media Lab (DML) plays an integral role in this initiative by providing resources and support to individuals interested in using digital tools for their academic work, research, and professional development.

Through a well-equipped space, the DML is able to facilitate a wide variety of individual and collaborative digital projects ranging from classroom assignments to qualifying papers. Recent work includes website design and development, video and audio production, gallery interactive development, mapping, alternate modes of research presentation, and 3D printing. The DML provides regular workshops and training to support the mastery of digital tools in order to encourage inquiry into new modes of scholarship and to develop valuable professional skills.

The DML also plays a central role in the development of digital interactive components for the Gallery exhibitions at Bard Graduate Center. These projects utilize digital tools to enhance and extend the scholarly investigations being conducted in the exhibition space and are the result of collaborative efforts between faculty, students, the DML, and the Gallery.

Finally, the DML supports a lecture series and maintains key partnerships with regional and national institutions invested in Digital Humanities scholarship. These collaborations expose our community to an ever-expanding array of new media projects while bringing Bard Graduate Center’s digital work to a larger audience.

Jesse Merandy, director of the Digital Media Lab, is responsible for managing the Digital Media Lab and works with faculty and students to develop digital projects. His research includes mobile technologies and learning and interactive technology and pedagogy.

Contact: jesse.merandy@bgc.bard.edu, 212 501 3061

Learn more at the DML website: http://dml.commons.bgc.bard.edu

Object Lab and Study Collection

The Bard Graduate Center Study Collection is made up of a growing number of objects in a variety of media that have been donated to us since the Collection’s founding in 2011. The purpose of the Study Collection is to support pedagogy by providing hands-on, close-up examination of objects as part of a classroom experience. Holdings include artifacts of glass, metal, ceramic, wood, plastic, textiles, and paper. Although many pieces come from Europe and the Americas dating from the eighteenth century to the present, there are also holdings from Asia and the Pacific Islands. Strong areas of the collection include modern ceramics, Indian textiles, silver, and silver-plated flatware.

The majority of the collection has been cataloged and photographed and is available on Artstor’s JSTOR Forum. The Study Collection is currently housed in our Object Lab (room 310, 38 West 86th Street) and is accessible to Bard Graduate Center faculty, students, and staff by appointment during regular Visual Media Resources (VMR) hours.

Fall and Spring semester:

  • Weekdays 9 am-6 pm (Wednesday and Fridays till 5 pm)


  • Weekdays 9 am-5 pm (Fridays till noon)

Please contact a VMR staff member for more information about viewing objects.

Visual Media Resources Staff:

Objects are to be used in-house only. Please refer to the Object Lab Usage Guidelines or ask a VMR staff member for any questions regarding handling, care, or transport of objects.

Summer School

Museum Objects as Evidence: Approaches to the Material World

From 9-20 July 2018 the Rijksmuseum, the University of Amsterdam and the Bard Graduate Center, will collaborate in offering a Summer School in Amsterdam with an interdisciplinary focus on object-based research within a museum setting. Experts in the field will provide students with an exclusive and in-depth look behind the scenes in the conservation studios, science laboratories and museum departments where they operate.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the notion of objects of cultural heritage as sources of information. In this summer programme we will examine objects from a range of disciplinary perspectives, consider the types of information they generate and unravel the stories they can tell.


Over the course of two weeks, students will be led through a series of object-driven examinations of pieces from the Rijksmuseum and other collections by a team of researchers, curators, conservators and scientists from the Rijksmuseum, the Conservation Department of the University of Amsterdam and Bard Graduate Center. This method of gathering information from the objects allows us to ask more profound questions about the circumstances of their production and use, and in turn about the persons who made and used them.

During the daily sessions case studies will be discussed with interdisciplinary teams of conservators, curators and researchers, using objects drawn mainly from the collections of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Excursions to other museums and institutions form part of the programme. Each day will end with a wrap up discussion on the theme of the day led by one of the students.

Students will also be introduced to the use of several advanced analytical techniques. Demonstrations will be given by the scientists operating the apparatus, so that the participants can gain first-hand information about the principles , and perhaps more importantly, the possibilities and limitations of technical analysis. Students will take part in an interactive programme of lectures, practical assignments and discussions, with the aim of facilitating an overall hands-on experience. Students will emerge from this programme with a unique set of tools and perspectives for conducting research in material-based cultural history.

For this Summer School, the Rijksmuseum and the University of Amsterdam collaborate under the flag of the Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science+ (NICAS), of which they are founding partners.

A provisional programme for the 2018 Summer School can be seen here.

Entry Requirements

This Summer School is aimed primarily at students and young professionals specializing in the fields of history, art history, archaeology, or anthropology – but other humanities students interested in questions of cultural heritage are welcome to apply as well. MA and PhD level is preferred. Selection of applicants is based on academic achievement, relevant work experience and motivation to attend.

Deadline for application: 18 March 2018

The application deadline for the 2018 Summer School has now passed. All applicants will be informed about the selection outcome by 30 March 2018.

Please review the University of Amsterdam website for further information on the course fee, housing possibilities, scholarships, application procedure and all related practical matters.


For questions about the contents of the programme, please contact Marije Spek, Coordinator Academic Programmes at the Rijksmuseum (m.spek@rijksmuseum.nl).

For other practical questions, please contact Ellen Bosma, Secretary at the Arts and Culture Department of University of Amsterdam: (e.bosma@uva.nl).

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Workshops are offered throughout the fall and spring semester on a range of topics of interest to both MA and PhD students. In the past, workshops have been offered on academic writing, applying to doctoral programs, presenting papers at conferences, and using Photoshop. A full schedule of workshops is sent to all students at the beginning of each semester.

Materials Days

Materials Days offer Bard Graduate Center students an opportunity for hands-on practice, as they explore materials and processes related to their fields of study and experience materiality from the maker’s perspective. Each year first year MA students attend a workshop at UrbanGlass to learn the basics of glassblowing. Additional materials days are organized throughout the year.

Past Materials Days have included bookmaking workshops, a visit to a nineteenth-century printing office, and creating medieval illuminated letters, among others.

Gallery Opportunities

Bard Graduate Center’s world-class Gallery offers students a range of opportunities for additional experience in a working gallery. Students may work as docents for exhibitions or as campus employees in the Gallery offices. They also may be considered for our Education Fellow position, or for a Curatorial Fellow position (an award made as part of the financial aid process). Curatorial Fellows may work on general gallery exhibitions and/or on Focus Project exhibitions with faculty.

Aside from work experience, the Gallery offers other opportunities to gain behind the scenes experience. Installation workshops for students accompany every exhibition and Focus Projects include detailed walk-throughs with the curator of the exhibition.

Career Development

Thinking about life after your degree is an important part of our program. For our MA students, it begins early with our internship program. And throughout both years of the program we offer a number of events and workshops that take career development as a topic.

Our Alumni at Work series introduces current students to alumni working in a wide range of fields. Our annual Alumni Spotlight Lecture showcases the work and research of both MA and PhD alumni. We have recently hosted a career conversation evening with alums who work for auction houses and appraisers and also an Alum Book Night, which was a conversation with two recently published alums. These events are supplemented by career-enriching workshops on learning digital tools such as WordPress run out of our Digital Media Lab. Our Library offered sessions on archival research and on advanced research techniques.

Life at Bard Graduate Center

Students at Bard Graduate Center are able to take advantage of a great number of opportunities both within and without the program. Any given week during the academic year will see an evening lecture by an international academic, a lunchtime talk on research in progress by a faculty member, a gallery walk-through of an exhibition led by a curator, or a visit to maker’s studio around New York City, as well as a full range of workshops preparing students for life after the Bard Graduate Center.

Our location on a historic block in Manhattan’s upper west side puts our students near an array of cultural offerings: the American Museum of Natural History and New-York Historical Society are around the block, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is across Central Park, and Lincoln Center is a short walk away. Restaurants, cafes, nightlife, and shopping are all within easy reach.

A number of our MA and PhD students live at our housing facility, Bard Hall, located near Columbus Circle and an easy walk from the BGC. All of our students are encouraged to take advantage of all that New York City has to offer.


Commencement will be on May 25, 2019, at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Details will be forthcoming in the spring. In addition to commencement, we hold an annual Qualifying Paper Symposium every spring where all MA candidates present their work done for their qualifying papers.