History of Art


Material Studies

The department offers a unique undergraduate degree route in History of Art, Materials and Technology.

This degree route offers a unique focus on works of art as physical objects. It combines knowledge of art history with questions of materiality and technology related to the time a work of art was made and subsequently as it ages and changes. Students gain understanding of artistic techniques and methods of making, implementing knowledge derived from material science, the study of technologies, as well as histories and theories of art, media and conservation, including the practical knowledge of museum practices.

As well as making use of London’s extensive public collections, libraries, museums and architecture, the degree route draws on the resources of the History of Art Department’s Material Studies Laboratory and media reference collection. In doing so it stimulates intellectual and personal development, and equips students to carry out projects individually and collectively, to communicate effectively and to pursue academic research or take up responsible positions in a wide variety of job contexts. More broadly, it develops understanding of the value of intellectual reflection and of a critical understanding of cultural production.

Teaching in History of Art, Materials and Technology route reflects the tutors’ specialisms and ranges across the application of science and analytic techniques in the arts, understanding technologies of vision, the materiality of contemporary art, themes related to film, video and installation, the material lives of performances, digital art, oral histories, and the history, theory and philosophy of conservation.

Our BA route in History of Art, Materials and Technology includes a variety of courses designed specifically for this degree route, such as Introduction to Art and Science, Introduction to Media and Technologies, Methods and Materials of Artists, Methodologies of Making and Art/Work/Space—a work placement module offering the students a possibility to gain work experience in London institutions. In addition to these specialized modules, students may take a selection of other art history modules taught in the Department. 

Academic Staff

Professor Pip Laurenson

Pip Laurenson


Dr Hélia Marçal

Helia Marcal

Dr Caroline Rae

Caroline Rae

Cabinet of Obsolete Media 

The Cabinet of Obsolete Media has been conceived as a teaching collection of media and technologies of the image at the UCL Department of History of Art. The Cabinet aims to collect devices and technologies that represent the development of media art, particularly as resources for academic art historical study and reference. Staff, research students and BA and MA students are welcome to engage with the Cabinet as an aid to familiarise themselves with the materiality of technologies and facilitate object-based learning. 

The collection includes a magic lantern, stereoscope, the stereoscopic camera, patheorama and folding half plate camera, a selection of photographic cameras, film projectors, cathode ray tube monitors, stacks of 16mm and 8mm films, magnetic and analogue computer storage media and a solid overview of analogue and digital video tape formats. This collection enhances the Department’s holdings of reference materials such as the collection of binding media and pigments which is housed in the Material Studies Laboratory. The Cabinet is growing and accepts donations. 

A selection of images of items from the collection can be found on our Instagram page HERE.

A list of the items presently in the collection is available: 


Prospective Students

Further details of the History of Art, Materials and Technology route are available on the BA History of Art programme overview. Students interested in following this route should apply to the BA History of Art programme in the first instance.