Art History in Canada 1933-present is a data-driven project that charts the growth of the modern discipline of art history in Canadian universities, tenure-stream position by tenure-stream position. The project aims to provide a useful instrument to our institutions, a basis for discussion about past, present and future, and some facts and figures to support advocacy.
The project has also created a framework for a history of the institutions, individual art historians, and intellectual currents of art history in this country. Our timeline [link to Timeline] provides a skeleton of this history, departments have started to contribute their histories, and we have started soliciting accounts of our specializations (subfields of the discipline). These are just a beginning. We hope this project continues to stimulate the active collaboration of members of the art historical community in shaping the many components of this history into a series of coherent accounts.
The Art History in Canada Project also helps a group of academics geographically dispersed and working in two languages and across a wide array of specializations to know each other and, hopefully, to connect with each other.
The Art History in Canada project is a collaboration of art historians across Canada. Because there is much more to say, this website is an invitation to get involved: to pose the key questions and to get to work answering them.
Icons and Indicators
Parameters of the Study
Art history is used broadly in this study as a shorthand for the history of art across media, the history of architecture, as well as visual culture and visual studies. Moving image studies and media studies have not been included.
The core of the project is a database of full-time tenure-stream faculty, complete histories of faculty at 15 departments of art history (all of the PhD granting institutions, most of the MA granting institutions, and one other, McMaster because of its long history). We limited our data collecting to tenure-stream positions as the moment of strong institutional investment and commitment to the discipline. We hope that the important contributions of sessional faculty will be brought out in the individual departments’ narrative accounts.
We wanted our data collecting to convey continuities and shifts in the kinds of specializations of art historians teaching at Canadian universities over time. We designated 20 specializations and attached one to each faculty position, trying to capture institutional priorities with each designation. Inevitably this one designation does not accurately describe an art historian’s scholarly identity but a general curricular mandate. These specializations are evident in the Faculty charts and in our Subjects of Art History where we break down the range of art historical subjects taught in Canadian art history programs over time, as well as the histories of faculty positions in each specialization.
We gathered information on the countries in which the tenure-stream faculty did their BA, MA and PhD in order to show the intellectual genealogies and networks of Canadian art historians over time, to show the rapid professionalization of the discipline, and to show how the establishment of Canadian PhD programs (from the late 1960s) has changed the training grounds of our faculty. The most detailed data is to be found in the individual university “Detailed Faculty Information” pdfs. For European-trained art historians, whose degrees are not exactly equivalent to North American degrees, we at times assigned degrees to reflect training at a given phase in their career.
The data was gathered from publicly accessible sources, mostly university calendars and websites, supplemented by the firsthand knowledge of the project collaborators within departments. One of the greatest challenges was discerning tenure-stream positions when (in rare instances) the calendars did not make distinctions of rank. Accounts from departments were submitted with knowledge they would be posted on a website. The nature of our data and method of gathering it was discussed with and deemed appropriate by a research ethics officer at the University of Toronto. Individual participants have contacted the ethics officers at their universities independently.
Project Genesis & The Team
During a graduate seminar taught by Evonne Levy at the University of Toronto in 2012 on the Global Reception of Heinrich Wölfflin’s Principles of Art History we turned our attention to the Canadian reception. We found virtually no literature on the subject, aside from the dossier of articles under the rubric “Le Canada,” published in Perspective: La revue de l’INHA (2008). This project is a data-grounded expansion of Laurier Lacroix’s excellent article from that dossier, “L’histoire de l’art au Canada: développement d’une pratique”, as well as the dialogue, “L’histoire de l’art au Canada: pratiques d’une discipline universitaire” (with contributions of François-Marc Gagnon, Jean-Philippe Uzel, Janet Brookes and others) which touches on other themes like funding, relations between art historians in universities and museums, and some of our regional differences. Evonne Levy returned to the subject in summer of 2016 when she worked with two undergraduates at University of Toronto Mississauga to start to chart the outlines of the discipline on a quantifiable basis. Hilary Dow, an undergraduate at the University of Toronto Mississauga (who received a University of Toronto Excellence Award to fund her research) investigated the intersection of the art museum and the university, a line of inquiry we set aside the following year as the boundaries between the two are difficult to draw and we decided that the role of the art historian in the museum, while crucial especially to the early history of the discipline in Canada, would not be our central question. Brooke Fernetti’s research in summer of 2016 laid the groundwork for the data-driven approach the project has since taken, with her work on a core of 8 Anglophone universities whose calendars were readily accessible to us in Toronto. Following the summer of 2016, Amy Wallace, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto came on board and helped drive the project forward in all of its components. In fall 2016 we tested interest in collaboration by showing some preliminary results and started to contact the dozens of collaborators who have made the realization of the project possible. Nico Mara-Mckay, an undergraduate in art history at the University of Toronto Mississauga came on board this summer (also with a University of Toronto Excellence Award) and worked energetically on the data, having helped to gather information on other aspects of the project during the previous academic year.
We are grateful to the many collaborators on this project from all over Canada, whose individual contributions are noted throughout the website.– Evonne Levy, Professor, University of Toronto