Art History on the Remake

The School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History has changed its name to include Art History.

Earlier in 2021, the Head of School, Dr Paula Sweeney, proposed that the name of the School ought to properly reflect its constitution – that of four separate disciplines, History, Divinity, Philosophy and Art History.

Following on from consultation, the staff of the School were invited to vote on the new formulation with Senate approval received in May. As with all re-brandings, there was a delicate balance to be struck between continuity and change. The resulting acronym is clear and only an ‘A’ away from what it was before – DHPA!

What prompted the change originated in the ‘A’ discipline itself. Up until 2021, it was the discipline of History of Art; a name it had carried since it was founded. Shifting to Art History had been a topic of discussion for some time but the decision to go forward with the change arrived with the discipline’s own reconstitution.

Art History, as Griselda Pollock wrote in the Art Bulletin in 2014 (‘Whither Art History’), designates the discipline as distinct from its field of study. While we remain chiefly concerned with the history of Art, the name change reflects an openness to other areas of visual history.

The distinction drawn between discipline and field of study is particularly relevant in light of the challenges we face in the 21st century – human rights, environment and sustainability. It helps us to think about our discipline as inclusive and intellectually open; one that embraces diverse sub-fields, methods and approaches in both research and teaching.

It places emphasis on our interdisciplinary profile whilst remaining recognisably about art - in its widest definition - and its complex histories enacted over time and space.

Art History at Aberdeen is beginning an exciting new chapter in its own history. One that is situated within the interdisciplinary framework of the School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History.

Dr Joanne Anderson
Head of Art History