First things first

Art history might seem like a relatively straightforward concept: “art” and “history” are subjects most of us first studied in elementary school. In practice, however, the idea of “the history of art” raises complex questions. What exactly do we mean by art, and what kind of history (or histories) should we explore?

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Why you don’t like art history
Why you don’t like art history

Darkness at noon? There are so many stories of art these days, you’re sure to stay awake in class.

A brief history of Western culture
A brief history of Western culture

History is untidy. Though imperfect, defining periods and styles can order the chaos of millennia.

What is art history and where is it going?
What is art history and where is it going?

Methods change, the canon expands, and we write history anew. Long focused on the West, the field is going global.

Unlock Art: Where are the Women?
Unlock Art: Where are the Women?

There have always been women in the arts, just not in the history books—or even in our museums. Change is slow.

How art can help you analyze
How art can help you analyze

Pay attention! Identifying symptoms and solving crimes require many of the same skills as art historical analysis.

Is there a difference between art and craft?
Is there a difference between art and craft?

Attitudes towards objects differ between cultures. Don’t discriminate art from craft—call it all “the visual arts.”

First things first: why look at art?
First things first: why look at art?

These museum professionals do it for a living. Stop, take a breath, and open your eyes—it’s your answer that counts.

What is cultural heritage?
What is cultural heritage?

Whose property is it anyway? Even when we’re talking about humanity’s greatest achievements, institutions disagree.

What maps tell us
What maps tell us

Whether you’re centered on Jerusalem or relegated to a spot “down under,” maps reflect belief as much as location.

What made art valuable—then and now
What made art valuable—then and now

Artistic labor has changed over time—so has its perceived value. Now a mere idea can be worth its weight in gold.

Common questions about dates
Common questions about dates

Where to begin? Depending on the calendar, it all starts with Christ’s birth, the new moon, or Pope Gregory.

Selected Contributors | First things first