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Our study was prompted by a widely shared perception that opportunities for publishing monographs have shrunk in recent years while the numbers of Ph.D. recipients have increased. Quantitative analysis of art history Ph.D. conferrals and of university press publishing in the field confirms both developments, and it shows that there has already been a modest decline in monograph publication relative to the number of Ph.D. dissertations produced. This decrease is likely to become more noticeable in the years immediately ahead, as Cambridge University Press, the second most productive publisher of art history monographs in the past decade, contracted its art history line by more than 50 percent in 2006.

The summary findings on Art History Ph.D. Conferrals and Art History Publication by University Presses presented below are explained in detail in Lawrence T. McGill's report The State of Scholarly Publishing in the History of Art and Architecture. The downward trend in publishing opportunities for art history monographs is also related in complex ways to the rise of interdisciplinary investigation and new fields of inquiry such as visual studies. These developments are outlined at the end of this section.

Art History Ph.D. Conferrals

From 1992-93 to 2002-03, the number of Ph.D.'s awarded annually in art history (and related fields, such as art criticism and art studies, but not including architecture or archaeology) increased dramatically.1, 2 During the fourteen years prior to the 1993-94 academic year (1979-93), the field had awarded an average of about 156 Ph.D.'s per year. Between 1993-94 and 1996-97 (a span of four years), the field awarded an average of 198 Ph.D.'s per year, a 27 percent increase over the previous 14-year average. Since 1998-99, the field has awarded an average of 236 Ph.D.'s per year, an increase of another 19 percent from the mid-1990s, and a total increase of 51 percent since the 1980s and early 1990s. In the most recent two years for which data are available (2002-03 and 2003-04), there were 260 and 259 Ph.D.'s awarded in the field of art history, or over 100 more Ph.D.'s per year than was typical during the 1980s and early 1990s.

While the total number of doctoral degrees awarded (in all fields) has also increased since 1992-93, the field of art history has been producing Ph.D.'s at a far more rapid rate than the typical discipline. The average annual rate of increase of Ph.D.'s in all fields since 1992-93 has been just below 1 percent per year, while art history Ph.D.'s have increased at the rate of more than 8 percent per year.

Figure 1: (Click for a larger version for the graph.)
Figure 1 (ArtHistPhDs.png)

Art History Publication by University Presses

To quantify trends in art history publishing, data were collected on the number of art history works published annually by university presses since 1980.3 A sample of these works was further broken down into the categories of single-author works and museum-related works, on the assumption that most monographs are single-author works; it should be noted, however, that the category does not exclude surveys. Some key findings:

The number of art history books published annually by university presses climbed significantly from the early 1990s to the late 1990s, but has grown at a much slower rate since 2000.(It is important to note that this includes all titles classified as art history, including single-author monographs, multiple-author works, edited volumes, exhibition catalogues, etc.) During the early 1990s (1990-94), university presses published 1,356 art history books, according to the Bowker Global Books in Print database, or an average of about 269 art history titles per year.

During the second half of the 1990s (1995-99), the number of art history books published by university presses increased 37 percent to 1,844, or an average of 369 per year (i.e., 100 more titles per year).

During the next five-year period (2000-04), the number of art history books published by university presses increased once again, but at a much slower rate. Between 2000 and 2004, university presses published 1,949 art history books (an average of 390 art history titles per year), an increase of 6 percent (or 21 more books per year) over the previous five-year period.

As of late 2005, the Bowker database identified the following publishers as the most prolific university presses, historically, in the field of art history (based on the entire database, across all years):

  1. Yale University Press – 1,092 titles (13.4 percent of total)
  2. Cambridge University Press – 713 titles (8.8 percent)
  3. Oxford University Press – 685 titles (8.4 percent)
  4. MIT Press – 488 titles (6.0 percent)
  5. University of Washington Press – 461 titles (5.7 percent)
  6. University of California Press – 429 titles (5.3 percent)
  7. University of Chicago Press – 402 titles (4.9 percent)
  8. Princeton University Press – 379 titles (4.7 percent)

These eight presses account for about 57 percent of all art history titles (estimated at 8,143) published by university presses since the late 1960s. As of 2005, all eight remained among the top ten university-based publishers in the field; however, Cambridge University Press announced in 2005 that it would be contracting its art history monograph publications by more than 50%, and limit its coverage to ancient, medieval, and Renaissance topics.

The number of single-author works in art history increased significantly from the early 1990s to the late 1990s, but declined somewhat during the most recent five-year period for which data are available (2000-04). A title by title analysis of art history books at eight university presses considered to be key publishers in the field of art history shows that the number of single-author works in art history published by these presses increased from an average of 63 per year during the late 1980s to 121 per year during the late 1990s (a 92 percent increase). Between 2000 and 2004, however, the average number of single-author works in art history published by these presses declined to about 117 per year, a 3 percent drop.

According to our analysis, the top producer of "single-author works" in art history over the past 20 years (1985-2004) has been Yale University Press, accounting for 487 of the 1,990 single-author works produced by these eight publishers. Cambridge University Press published 367 single-author works over that period, followed by MIT Press (253) and the University of Chicago Press (221). The University of Washington Press also published more than 200 single-author works during this 20-year period (206). With the contraction of Cambridge University Press's art history output by more than 50%, the field stands to forego the publication of at least a dozen single-author works per year (based on Cambridge's average annual output since 1995).

Figure 2: (Click for a larger version for the graph.)
Figure 2 (ArtHistPubs.png)

Relationship of Ph.D. Conferrals to Art History Monograph Publication Data

The most recent increase in the number of Ph.D.'s awarded in the field comes at a time when the number of art history-related titles being published by university presses has leveled off and the number of single-author works (most of them monographs) being published has begun to decline.4 Year by year, the number of art history titles published by university presses between 2000 and 2004 has tracked as follows: 404, 412, 388, 355, and 390. Meanwhile, the number of Ph.D.'s awarded in art history over the same period of time (1999-2000 through 2003-04) was: 225, 221, 213, 260, and 259.

It may be instructive to look at the relationship between the number of art history titles published by university presses and the number of Ph.D.'s awarded by the field on a year-by-year basis over time. A simple way to do this is to compute an annual ratio between the two numbers, by dividing the number of art history titles published in a given year by the number of Ph.D.'s conferred during the academic year ending in that same calendar year. For example, in 1989, there were 239 art history titles published by university presses. During the 1988-89 academic year, there were 161 art history Ph.D.'s awarded. Dividing the former by the latter produces a ratio of about 1.4 art history titles published per Ph.D. awarded in the field.

Carrying these calculations out for other years shows that during the 1990s, when the annual number of art history titles published was growing at a respectable pace (95 percent more titles were published during the late 1990s than during the late 1980s), this ratio rose to about 1.8 art history titles published per Ph.D. awarded. In other words, relative to the rate at which the number of Ph.D.'s awarded increased during the 1990s, the rate of art history titles being published increased faster. As of the latest year for which we have both publishing and Ph.D. data (2004), however, this ratio has now gone back down to 1.4, where it was in 1989. This declining ratio in recent years is one factor contributing to the sense of "crisis" reported by scholars interviewed in the course of the study.

Art History in the Expanding Field of Visual Inquiry

The advent of cultural studies in the 1970s has had transformative effects on art and architectural history, as it has on most humanistic disciplines. Art history has expanded the medial range of its objects of study, diversified its research questions and protocols in theoretical and social directions, and begun to adjust the balance of its interests toward the modern, the contemporary, and the global. As before, art history continues to be centrally concerned with the distinctive materiality, visual appearance, and spatial experience of works of art and architecture, but its texts have become more self-conscious about these defining characteristics of the discipline.

Art history's internal diversifications and theoretical articulations have not exhausted or satisfied expanded scholarly interest in ways and forms of seeing, however. Over the past three decades, scholars from a wide variety of humanities and social sciences have pursued stimulating new questions about the visual constitution and experience of the world, in its physiological, phenomenological, and social aspects. Much of this interdisciplinary inquiry has been institutionalized as visual culture or visual studies in new academic programs, curricula, centers, and departments in North American and European universities. Some visual culture programs are symbiotically allied with traditional art history departments, others are subordinated to art history, and yet others are integrated with film and media studies, studio art programs, cultural studies, and visual anthropology and sociology in entirely different departments or schools.5

While the objects and methodological purview of visual culture studies remain matters of exciting possibility and vigorous debate, it is already clear that many visual culture scholars and publications address questions and images that might be, but have not quite been, central to art history as well. "Popular" arts, decorative arts, design, phenomenology, and, especially, modern conditions of visuality and contemporary media are topics of great interest to visual culture studies, yet they are also the kinds of concerns that have not sat easily within an art history foundationally dedicated to the pre-modern, primarily Western arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. The many visual culture publications dedicated to cultural theories of seeing and to modern and contemporary art and design appear to fill some of art history's gaps from outside the discipline, and they have in turn shaped new directions within art history.6 Rather differently from art history, however, visual culture texts tend to focus on the circulation of images rather than the making and exchange of art objects.

The expansion of the visual investigation of culture has had several consequences for scholarly publication in art history. There are welcome new journals, edited volumes, and press lists in which to publish—and they are open to art historians, particularly in the subfields mentioned.7 With its scholarly interest in new media, visual culture has shown itself receptive to the potentialities of digital communication and publication.8 Academic publishers in the humanities have recognized the academic interest and appeal of visual culture studies, and on balance some of the publication list space traditionally dedicated to art history has shifted in the direction of more broadly conceived and more interdisciplinary inquiries into visual culture.9

The lure of the potential cross-over book has encouraged some university presses to shape art history lines that are liberally inclusive of visual culture or to publish monographs with an art historical component under other headings, such as classics, cultural history, or visual studies. Inherent in this interdisciplinary shift is the risk of neglecting core areas of scholarship dedicated to the material, visual, and social character of art and architecture. Our study suggests that while the opportunities for publishing art history monographs have retrenched, new modes of disseminating scholarship are available to be developed. The extant and prospective publication opportunities for art historical research are not utilized fully at present.

Footnotes

  1. This subsection of the report was written by Lawrence T. McGill; it is excerpted from his report The State of Scholarly Publishing in the History of Art and Architecture.
  2. Archaeologists and architectural historians are often trained outside art history departments, in Classics departments and Schools of Architecture, respectively, but the data aggregate all graduates from these programs without differentiating those specializing in art history. The data reported here thus undercount the actual number of doctoral degrees conferred to art historians.
  3. This subsection of the report was written by Lawrence T. McGill; it is excerpted from his report The State of Scholarly Publishing in the History of Art and Architecture.
  4. This subsection of the report was written by Lawrence T. McGill; it is excerpted from his report The State of Scholarly Publishing in the History of Art and Architecture.
  5. For attempts at articulating the expansive scope of visual culture studies, see W. J. T. Mitchell, "What Is Visual Culture," in Irving Lavin, ed., Meaning in the Visual Arts: Views from the Outside. A Centennial Commemoration of Erwin Panofsky (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 207-217, and W. J. T. Mitchell, "Showing Seeing: A Critique of Visual Culture," in Michael Ann Holly and Keith Moxey, eds., Art History, Aesthetics, Visual Studies (Williamstown and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 231-50; for a wide-ranging debate about that scope and its intellectual content, mostly from the art historical side, see Svetlana Alpers et al., "Visual Culture Questionnaire," October, 77 (Summer, 1996), 25-70; for institutional and disciplinary histories of visual culture, see James Elkins, Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction (New York and London: Routledge, 2003), 1-62, and Margaret Dikovitskaya, Visual Culture: The Study of the Visual after the Cultural Turn (Cambridge, Mass., and London: MIT Press, 2005).
  6. The intersections among visual culture, critical theory, and art history (particularly of the modern and the contemporary) are evident in the anthologies that constitute a central scholarly medium for visual culture studies; see Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey, eds., Visual Theory: Painting and Interpretation (New York: Harper Collins, 1991); Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey, eds., Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994); Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall, eds., Visual Culture: The Reader (London: Sage, 1999); and Nicholas Mirzoeff, ed., The Visual Culture Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 2002).
  7. For example, Journal of Visual Culture (a scholarly journal published by Sage Publications); Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture (sponsored by the University of Rochester); Visual Studies (published on behalf of the International Visual Sociology Association); Early Popular Visual Culture (published by Routledge; its scope is defined as "interdisciplinary studies in relation to all forms of popular visual culture before 1930").
  8. In 1998, Invisible Culture launched itself as an electronic journal dedicated to problematizing "the unquestioned alliance between culture and visibility, specifically visual culture and vision." Thus far, it has taken the form of scholarly articles c. 2500-6000 words in length, in a traditional print layout without illustrations.
  9. Growing university press interest in scholarship that views art as a broader phenomenon of visual culture was widely acknowledged by scholars and editors alike; see Lawrence T. McGill's report The State of Scholarly Publishing in the History of Art and Architecture. Our survey of individual lists of ten university presses from 2000 to 2006, supported by the research of Eric Ramírez-Weaver, shows modest shifts of this kind. It is also evident that publishers not traditionally active in art history have entered the broader field of visual culture, with new opportunities for certain kinds of art history scholarship. Duke University Press, University of Minnesota Press, and University of Pittsburgh Press are expanding or introducing new lists, for example.

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