The Winterthur Program welcomes your questions! If you still have a question after reading those most frequently asked, please contact us.
Application is made through the University’s Graduate & Professional Education application portal. Review our Apply page to learn Program-specific application requirements. You can also learn more about the application process by visiting the Winterthur Program as a prospective applicant, during our annual fall Visit Days. To speak with someone, contact our Program Coordinator at the University of Delaware at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 302-831-2678.
Yes! We encourage you to. Because Material Culture is a hybrid discipline, with intellectual roots in archaeology, art history, architecture, anthropology, history and literature, the Program welcomes everyone who has an interest in the social significance of objects. Winterthur is dedicated to facilitating innovative research, and an integral part of that is welcoming new voices and perspectives. Whatever your expertise may be, your perspective will enrich the conversations about material culture and the decorative arts.
There is a deadline; the Program accepts applications by its January deadline each year. The Winterthur Program does not offer rolling admissions. Please check the APPLY page for details and the current January application deadline.
Yes, in most cases. Fellows find the stipend manageable for their 22 months of study. The stipend value is based on the cost of living in the Greater Wilmington Area, and generally covers room and board. Fellows can maximize their stipend through cost-saving measures, such as living with roommates rather than living alone and carpooling. Fellows often carpool to and from Winterthur, especially during Summer Institute and to and from shared classes at the University of Delaware. Carpooling also reduces parking expense at the University. Additionally, there are many generous supplementary funding opportunities available to Winterthur Fellows, which fund thesis research expenses, conference attendance, presentation travel, and educational opportunities outside of the curriculum. Fellows are made aware of these funding sources and application requirements by Program staff and faculty each year.
Fellows usually live close to the Winterthur Museum or the University of Delaware campus in northern Delaware. Some Fellows choose to live in the city of Philadelphia and some of the smaller Pennsylvania towns that border Delaware, like Chadds Ford or Kennett Square. Most Fellows have found either the city of Wilmington or northern suburban Wilmington to be a convenient location, close to both Winterthur and the University. In some cases, incoming Fellows take over leases from graduating Fellows.
I am also considering PhD programs. How will the Winterthur Program prepare me for a doctoral program?
If you aspire to advanced research and scholarship using objects, we recommend that you attend the Winterthur Program before going on to doctoral programs. Although doctoral programs provide advanced training in research, critical thinking, and academic teaching, most emphasize historiography, texts, and theory rather than exposure to objects and field-based or hands-on learning. After studying as a Winterthur Fellow, you may decide you do not need to spend 5-8 years working on a doctoral degree and writing a dissertation, but if you do pursue a doctoral degree, you will definitely know more about how to look at things than most of your peers and some of your professors. Typically, one or two Fellows pursue a doctoral degree after graduation, usually in art history, history, or American studies, most aspiring to careers in academic teaching or art museums.
Only three letters of recommendation are required. You may choose to request more than three, but please understand that the first three to be received by the University become part of your official application.
Yes. Because Winterthur began as a country estate several miles outside Wilmington, Delaware, students and faculty find it necessary to have a car. Public transportation is not convenient and timely enough for students to use regularly. Most students move to Delaware or the surrounding area shortly before Summer Institute—the introductory core course held in August. Although a car and driver’s license are necessary, students, particularly those who have lived in large cities prior to their arrival, may not have a car or driver’s license. In this case, carpooling may be possible during the month of August, as all students have the same schedule until fall semester begins. Winterthur and the University of Delaware are about a thirty-five-minute drive apart.
No, GRE scores are no longer required for this program.
Summer Institute is what Fellows often refer to as “decorative arts boot-camp.” It is held in August of Fellows’ first year and is meant to be an introductory course to Decorative Arts and Material Culture Study. The main goal of the course is to expose Fellows to the resources at both Winterthur and the University that will support them as they begin their fall courses; it also introduces students to greater community resources as well. By the end of August, students will have met nearly all the Museum and Program faculty, completed projects using the various Museum, University, and Library collections, and settled into their new life as a Winterthur Fellow.
Yes! It is our hope that students from far and wide apply to the Program—as students and faculty learn from each other. Whatever your background, it is our belief that you will find something that fascinates you inside and outside the Winterthur collections. Additionally, the University of Delaware has an outstanding Office for International Students & Scholars (OISS) that assists international students through the visa, move, and settlement process each step of the way. The OISS office has experience assisting international Winterthur fellows with some of the questions that arise from their status as foreign students.
Students coming from big cities enjoy their time as Winterthur Fellows immensely. Some choose to live in Philadelphia and maintain connections with New York City and Washington, DC, both easily accessible by bus or train from Wilmington. The Program enables Fellows to study material culture and decorative arts in urban environments during the British Design History course and Urban Field Study trip (typically visiting New York City), during the Fellows’ first and second years respectively. These trips provide Fellows with unparalleled contacts in the field, allowing many to return for work or further study after graduation. The Winterthur Program also offers Fellows a truly unique experience—the ability to study on a stunning 600+ acre landscape amidst some of the most beautiful historic gardens and natural lands in the United States. Fellows thus have the opportunity to enjoy both global northeastern cities and sprawling natural landscapes—as desire and circumstances allow.
Typically Fellows select two elective courses in year one and four elective courses in year two. Two of these elective courses (the distribution requirement) must be graduate seminars in different academic disciplines at the University of Delaware, generally offerings from the departments of Art History, English, or History. Fellows can also request to take additional elective courses (beyond the six courses specified), with the Director’s approval.
Full-time participation over the course of 22 consecutive months, beginning August 1 and ending May 31st the following year, is expected.
Don’t hesitate to contact our Program office at the University of Delaware: email@example.com or 302-831-2678.
Although internship experiences are not required for an application to the Program, nearly all of our applicants have had some work or study experience in museums, historic houses, preservation organizations, non-profits, auction houses, antique galleries, science centers, living history sites, or educational institutions. Colleges may not call these experiences “internships” on transcripts or give them academic credit, but they test an applicant’s interest in graduate-level scholarship and determination for professional success.
Fellows may augment the Program curriculum with professional experience through internships. There are two strategies for gaining this experience: the Museum Studies Program Internship course (MSST 804, 3cr); or other professional experiences generally registered under the Special Topics / Independent Study course (EAMC 666, 3cr). The latter course is directed study that may or may not take the form of a traditional internship. The Museum Internship course is required for those planning to earn the Museum Studies Certificate. The goal is professional training and may include work in curatorial, development, publications, and/or public programs areas. The MSST Internship requires 350 hours of work, but Fellows may spread these hours over multiple semesters or sites, including Winterthur, at the discretion of the MSST Program Director.
The M.A. degree requirements include a thesis. Theses in the Winterthur Program may take one of several forms, such as a written document, an exhibition project, or a website. No matter the form, all theses have a written component, and all should demonstrate a high level of intellectual rigor and innovation. The thesis can be a written document of 40-60 pages (not including title pages, illustrations, notes, and bibliography). Theses may be longer, but in general, students are encouraged to emphasize quality over quantity. Alternatively, the thesis can be a hybrid product that combines a creative, material, or digital project and a required companion paper of approximately 20 pages (not including title pages, illustrations, notes, and bibliography). In this instance, the paper serves to introduce the thesis project and explain its argument(s), methodology, historiography, and scholarly contribution.
The primary advisor is typically a regular or affiliated faculty member of the University of Delaware (most Winterthur Museum faculty are also affiliated UD faculty). When a student’s thesis requires technical, material, and/or artistic support, a secondary advisor (including someone who might work for another University) with such expertise may also support the student. This expert may serve in an informal capacity, offering guidance to students as needs arise, or they may serve in an official capacity, as co- or secondary approver, in which case they must hold a graduate degree equal to or higher than the program’s M.A. degree.
The Program does not have a digital media requirement, but all Fellows contribute to blogs associated with field trips and coursework, learn advanced presentation skills, and become experienced in digital image processing. Faculty at the Museum and at the University use and teach in a variety of digital fields including but not limited to computer programing and content management system, CAD, GIS, 3-D scanning, digital printing, film making, e-publications, statistical analysis, and database design. In general, these applications are associated with particular disciplines or professional fields. Fellows learn them in the context of their coursework or due to their own initiative and interest.
The Winterthur Program is a full-time, 22-month commitment, and under the policies of the University’s Office of Graduate and Professional Education, other full and regular part-time employment is not permitted. With permission, Fellows occasionally undertake minor forms of employment if they clearly contribute to the student’s scholarly or professional training (e.g. extra guiding or working with educational programs at the Museum). Fellows receive an annual stipend ($22,000 in 2021-2022) for living expenses, and additional funding is readily available by application for research, presentation, and conference travel expenses.
Each year, sixteen applicants are invited to interview with the selection committee. Typically Interview Weekend is held virtually in March.
When admitted into the Winterthur Program, students become Lois F. McNeil Fellowship recipients. These Fellowships are made possible by the generosity of the McNeil family. While the Fellowship is subject to change, it is based on the costs of living in the Greater Wilmington Area, and is usually adequate to cover Fellows’ room and board. Fellows receive full funding—a generous annual stipend of $25,000 (for living expenses) and free tuition—for their entire 22-month course of study, pending “satisfactory progress,” beginning Aug 1 and ending May 31 of the second year of study. Fellows ordinarily complete all their requirements during this period and there is no provision for support beyond that time frame. In addition to the stipend, tuition fees are entirely covered, meaning that Fellows only pay University of Delaware student fees each semester. As of September 2020, these fees totaled ~$725 per semester and included University health insurance coverage (86% of the cost is subsidized by UD; coverage can be waived when otherwise provided). Additionally, all field-based learning travel expenses are also covered by the Program, with the exception of optional personal expenses and occasional meals.
Thanks to generous donors, both the University and Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library have a variety of endowed and gift funds that provide some support for every student’s thesis research. There are also generous supplementary funding opportunities available to Winterthur Fellows; these may also fund thesis research expenses, conference attendance, presentation travel, and educational opportunities outside of the curriculum. Program staff and faculty make Fellows aware of these funding sources, application requirements, and deadlines throughout the year. Some external organizations, such as the Decorative Arts Trust, also sponsor research for specific topics. Winterthur faculty, staff, and alumni generally post this information or share it with fellows via email. Rather than being granted in a lump sum as a stipend, most supplementary funding for expenses is reimbursed upon the submission of receipts.
No. The goal of the program is to teach analytical skills, provide content knowledge, and develop conceptual thinking. After training in object analysis, Winterthur students can apply these skills to any objects, no matter the time period and Fellows’ thesis topics can relate to any time period of the student’s choosing. While the connoisseurship classes primarily utilize Winterthur’s object collections (which do include objects earlier and later than the core dates, 1650 – 1860) and library collections which span 1600 – 1935, Fellows are also exposed to countless other collections during their field-study trips. Selected sites complement Winterthur’s collections, giving students access to objects from many different time periods. Students may also interact with objects from a variety of time periods in their elective classes, internships, and/or independent studies.
“American” refers to the continents of the Americas, rather than simply the United States. Winterthur’s library and object collections contain items from North, Central, and South America. People, ideas, and objects move, entangling them in habitats and global communities. As such, in classes where students are utilizing Winterthur’s collection, professors require that students examine the local and global implications of a given object, whether that be Chinese export porcelain, a mahogany tilt-top tea table, a Jamaican hair comb, or a Charleston slave tag. Winterthur Fellows do not have to travel far to encounter collections specializing in African American history, Jewish American history, Native American cultures, and more. In addition, professors at Winterthur and the University of Delaware have specialties in varying geographic regions.
Students are not required to use objects or documents from the Winterthur collection for their thesis. Although we know that there are an endless number of possibilities for thesis topics in the Winterthur collections, we encourage students to examine as many objects as possible, both inside and outside of the Winterthur collection. As long as the student chooses a topic that is possible to complete during their two years here, and one that their chosen supervisor approves of, the student can study any object or objects they like.
Fellows receive guidance on selecting their thesis advisors during the first year of study. Students select their thesis advisor from Winterthur Museum or University of Delaware faculty who meet the University’s qualifications for guiding an MA thesis. With experts in all different sub-fields of material culture and the decorative arts, we are confident that every student can find a mentor to assist them through the thesis process, help them explore new directions and ideas, and challenge them to exceed expectations. When necessary or desired, Fellows may select appropriate co- or secondary advisors.
Winterthur Fellows treat fine art as material culture. As such, one of the connoisseurship topics students study is prints and paintings. During this class, students are taught to analyze the materials that went into creating a piece of fine art, as well as the objects depicted in a given piece. Other connoisseurship topics examine different types of objects, help Fellows identify items portrayed in fine art, how a sitter may be interacting with those items, and the social significance of these depictions. This training supports Winterthur graduates at many fine art museums and galleries where they are now employed.
The Program encourages close analysis of all objects to uncover multiple and diverse meanings. Although Winterthur’s collections are famous for their extraordinary decorative arts objects, a large portion of the museum’s object collections relate to BIPOC experience and history. Additionally, the collection has many objects related to women’s, children’s, and elders’ histories. The University of Delaware has particularly strong collections in 20th-century African American art at its Mechanical Hall Gallery. Fellows can work with this collection in Art History, American Civilizations/History, and Africana Studies courses taken at the University. The University also fosters diverse scholarship via its Center for Disability Studies and Women and Gender Studies’ Department. Women and Gender Studies’ courses also foster LGBTQ perspectives and can facilitate LGBTQ-specific object analyses. Library holdings between the Winterthur and University libraries support research on the material culture of almost any group in any time period and more broadly—the politics of representation. All field-based learning trips give fellows access to diverse museums and cultural institutions with collections that contrast with Winterthur’s collection strengths.
Courses at the two institutions complement each other. Although University of Delaware courses also make use of the Museum’s and various other object collections in the area, they often teach students the theoretical foundations, historical contexts, and interpretation of an object’s significance. University courses also give Fellows the opportunity to read objects and collections from diverse perspectives, such as African American, gender, disability, and diaspora studies. Together, these classes give Winterthur Fellows a holistic approach to object analysis and material literacy.