Components Overview


Southworth & Hawes (American, active 1845-1861), Rollin Heber Neal, 1850, Daguerreotype, Courtesy George Eastman House

The University of Rochester–George Eastman House PPCM master’s degree program consists of three components:

  • Classroom work
  • Practical training and professional development
  • Master’s essay

In the Classroom

Classroom work provides our students with a well-rounded approach to the study of images qua images—that is, the nature, form, and function of images within specific histories and cultures. All students do advanced-level coursework on the photograph as art and the photograph as material culture. They also explore the social functions of images, past and present, and the nature of the material cultural object, including its transmission and circulation as a conveyor of meaning.

Practical Training and Professional Development

Practical training and professional development courses prepare students to handle photographs, to recognize the materials used in their creation, and to identify the processes used to produce them. Practical training courses furthermore acquaint students with issues encountered in photographic preservation and collections management.

Topics covered in this area include:

  • Collection arrangement and access
  • Print handling
  • Digital materials, including digital assets management
Curtis Promo Girl

Edward S. Curtis (American, 1868-1952), A Promo Girl, Photogravure print, Courtesy George Eastman House

In addition to their coursework, PPCM students engage in practical, hands-on work under the supervision of a curator, other museum staff, archivist, librarian, or faculty member, either at George Eastman House or the University of Rochester.

Each semester, supervisors will post projects, and students sign on to work on those that best match their interests and skills. Upon completion of a project, students write up a description of the work performed and the conclusions or solutions they found for the practical tasks undertaken.

Master’s Essay

All students in the PPCM program write a master’s essay, which may be a practical project, an analytic one, or a hybrid.

  • A practical project is a hands-on, extensive professional engagement with photographic objects, including preservation and collections management. The hands-on work is accompanied by an essay describing the project’s purpose and objectives; the research questions it deals with; and the methodologies used and conclusions reached.
  • Analytic and interpretive projects consider theoretical, historical, and aesthetic questions surrounding the photograph as image and object.
  • Hybrid projects have both hands-on and analytic components.