MA in Art History

Shira Loev Eller, 2012

Shira Loev Eller

Why did you decide to pursue an M.A. in Art History?

Ever since my first college internship at the Folger Shakespeare Library, I knew I wanted to be a librarian in a cultural heritage institution. I earned my Master’s in Library Science after college and began working as a librarian, but wasn’t able to land a job in my preferred area of librarianship. I knew that pursuing an M.A. in art history would allow me to not only follow my passion for thinking and learning in the humanities, but also would give me a leg up in the competitive fields of university and museum librarianship.

What was your most rewarding class? Why?

It’s difficult to pinpoint my most rewarding class, because as an art librarian it has been very important to me to gain a breadth of knowledge in the subject. The ability to take a wide array of classes rather than focusing on a narrow area right away was one of the things that attracted me to Mason’s M.A. program. If I had to choose, though, I would say my most rewarding class was Directed Readings, as I was able to delve into my personal choice of subject matter in a very intensive way with one-on-one guidance from Prof. Angela Ho. I have even recommended many of Prof. Ho’s readings to students researching Dutch art.

So what are you up to now professionally?

I currently work as Art & Design Librarian at The George Washington University Libraries. Some of my duties include collecting books and journals for the subject of art, providing research assistance to students and faculty, and teaching library instruction courses. I also work closely with our artists’ books collection and have co-curated several book arts shows with the university art gallery.

How has the M.A. program helped you with your career or your personal interests?

Earning an M.A. in art history was definitely a prerequisite for attaining my dream job as an art librarian. Without the understanding of the subject matter and experience with graduate level research I gained during the M.A. program, I could not have become an effective (or employable!) art librarian. On a less career-oriented note, the M.A. has given me a grounding in critical thinking and appreciation for the visual arts that have greatly enriched my life.

Any career advice you would give to students in the program?

Take on as many internships as you can, because you never know when one could lead to a permanent position. Also, get involved in professional associations. They are a great way to network, find mentors, learn about job openings, and keep current in your field. For me, the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) has been a great support system, and the local chapter has members from every major institution in the area. Usually professional societies have reduced dues for students, so take advantage of the opportunity!

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