Requirements

Rush Rhees Library

Rush Rhees Library, River Campus

All students are required to complete the following courses:

  • History of Photography I
  • History of Photography II
  • Preservation I
  • Collections Management
  • Preservation II
  • 3 University of Rochester electives
  • Master's Essay course
  • 80 hours of Institutional Service

Core Course Descriptions


History of Photography I: 1839–1915

The French author Roland Barthes described the emergence of photography in the early 19th century as a “truly unprecedented type of consciousness.” This class traces the emergence of this photographic consciousness in the 19th century as it develops within a number of specific arenas of culture & representation, from the medium’s conception in the early 19th century to its modernization in the early 20th century. The class will allow for general discussion of the history of photography with some detailed discussion of particular photographers, images, and texts. The class will look at photography as a cultural phenomenon as much as an art form, critically studying the various discursive arenas that this new medium helped to foster and redefine. We will also ask what makes photographic images so compelling, what we expect to see in them and what distinguishes, in the photographic realm, a document from an artwork, and an ephemeral image from a material object.

History of Photography II: 1915–2015

 This course addresses a series of key themes in the history of photography in the 20th and 21st century, the period in which time the medium achieved an unforeseen ubiquity. Photography’s attraction as an object of study is that there remains no aspect of modern life – from birth to death, from sex to war, from atoms to planets, from commerce to art – that is not touched by it in one way or another. Photography is a class of images and a practice that thoroughly infiltrates and mediates the world around us. This ubiquity poses a unique problem for art history: how do we develop a coherent and effective method of analysis for something so heterogeneous and diverse? How can we speak with equal sensitivity about the photograph as a representation, as well as what it represents with such exacting fidelity? How can we identify the meaning of a photograph when that meaning is so heavily determined by its context, a situation that is always shifting and is therefore itself hard to define? Throughout the course, we will address these questions through a close study of photography’s history, as that history developed within a number of specific social and material conditions from the international advent of modernism to the global spread of the camera phone. Taken as a whole, the we will look at photography as a cultural product as much as an art form, studying with a critical eye the discourses which the medium has helped to foster and redefine over the past century. To this end, you will be actively engaged in looking closely at photographs, in addition to reading debates related to them. By the course’s close, students will have formed opinions on these matters and be able to support them with key ideas discussed throughout the semester. Most importantly, we will have fun forming and sharing these judgments in the class environment. 

Photographic Preservation I

This course provides a detailed investigation of the history and practice of major nineteenth century photographic materials and processes, including photogenic drawings, calotypes, cased images (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes), wet-plate collodion negatives and albumen silver prints, platinum prints, gum bichromate prints, and early gelatin silver processes. Teaching methods include lectures, practical demonstrations, and relevant historical literature. It describes various materials and techniques used in photography so that date of origin and social context can be understood and used in defining approaches to photographic preservation. Participation in laboratory sessions provides students with the ability to identify major photographic processes, understand why certain materials deteriorate, and implement proper housing techniques for the preservation of material objects.

Photographic Preservation II

This course provides a detailed investigation into the history and practice of major twentieth century photographic materials and processes including photomechanical processes, color processes, gelatin silver negatives and prints, iron and pigment prints, dye transfer, instant films (Polaroid), and digital materials. Teaching methods include lectures, practical demonstrations, and relevant historic through contemporary literature. It describes various materials and techniques used in photography so that date of origin and social context can be understood and used in defining approaches to photographic preservation. Participation in laboratory sessions provides students with the ability to identify major photographic processes, understand why certain materials deteriorate, and implement proper housing techniques for the preservation of material objects. An Eastman House staff member leads the course in conjunction with guest speakers that include conservators, collection managers, and other specialists from the field.

Collections Management

This course introduces students to national museum standards currently guiding the theory and practice of managing photographic collections and to the roles and responsibilities of those who care for such collections. Students learn to apply collections stewardship principles and with the instructor explore various legal and ethical issues faced by museum professionals. The course also provides an overview of regulatory systems that ensure the integrity of collections care and of the liabilities associated with a broad range of collection activities, including acquisitions and accessioning, copyright and intellectual property, collection management policies, lending, and insurance.

In addition to theoretical considerations, the course also provides students with practical instruction in the physical care of objects. In particular, students learn to handle, condition report, and catalog photographic materials; use a collection management system; organize digitization practices and workflows; implement environmental monitoring and pest management; and devise and execute practical methods for preserving photographs on display. 

Master’s Essay Course

Students register for the Master’s essay course in the fall and spring semesters of their second year. In the fall semester, the course is designed as a practical introduction to research methods and assists students in the selection, development, and final proposal of their Master’s Essay. At the conclusion of the fall semester, the student presents PPCM faculty with a two- to three-page (or 500 to 750 words) written project proposal and bibliography as well as a 10-minute oral presentation.

In the spring semester, the Master’s essay course provides students with a series of benchmarks in order to ensure the successful completion of the essay. To this end, mandatory assignments may include the submission of a project timeline and an essay outline; the completion of several iterations of a project abstract; periodic project presentations; and collaborative workshops. At the conclusion of the spring semester, students are required to submit their essays to PPCM faculty, their project readers, and the University. In addition, they may also be required to give a formal presentation on the results of their Master’s projects.