MA in Preservation Studies

For more than 35 years, the Preservation Studies Program at Boston University has provided the interdisciplinary training necessary for successful careers in the analysis and management of cultural resources. More than 200 graduates have gone on to distinguished leadership positions in preservation, and that network of alumni is among the program’s greatest strengths.

The Preservation Studies Program integrates challenging coursework with extensive opportunities for practical, professional experience through group projects, independent work, and internships. Boston and New England have long been at the center of the preservation movement as home to many of its founders and to practitioners and institutions in the vanguard of developments in the field. Class projects take advantage of the tremendous scope of preservation activity in the region, from large-scale regional initiatives to grassroots neighborhood efforts in cities and towns. The program also draws on that community for its adjunct faculty, for internships, and for employment after graduation.

Students in the program engage firsthand with both time-tested and innovative forms of preservation practice and receive essential preparation in preservation planning, adaptive use, building conservation, and preservation law. The program also offers excellent opportunities to study the built environment through courses that examine architecture and the cultural landscape. Together, these provide a broad grounding that emphasizes the variety of historic resources and the diversity of approaches to their preservation.

For further information see General Requirements for the MA as well as the following requirements:

Course Requirements

Students must complete 12 courses or 48 credits at the 500 level or above, including five required core courses, distribution requirements, and a major project. The five required courses are listed below. Students are also required to take three courses that address the built environment from those offered by the American & New England Studies Program, the Archaeology Department, or the History of Art & Architecture Department. In addition, students will take three or four electives, depending on their plans for a major project. The major project may be an individual master’s project, a master’s thesis, or a group planning project through GRS AM 755 Preservation Planning Colloquium, and registering for one or occasionally two courses. Selection of courses, definition of the major project, and the overall direction of the student’s program will be designed in consultation with the student’s advisor, normally the program director.


Required for Preservation Studies Students

  • CAS AM 546 Historic Preservation
  • CAS AM 553 Documenting Historic Buildings and Landscapes
  • GRS AM 747 Historic Building Conservation
  • GRS AM 754 Planning and Preservation
  • GRS AM 759 Financing Historic Preservation Development


  • CAS AM 524 New England’s Cultural Landscape
  • GRS AM 730 Seminar in New England Architecture
  • GRS AM 748 Historic Preservation Seminar: Adaptive Building Use
  • GRS AM 755 Preservation Planning Colloquium
  • GRS AM 765 American Vernacular Architecture
  • GRS AM 780 Problems in Historic Preservation
  • GRS AM 867 Material Culture
  • GRS AM 901/902 Directed Study
  • GRS AM 903, 904  Directed Study in Historic Preservation
  • GRS AM 946 Practicum

Courses Offered Through Departmental Curricula

  • CAS AH 520    The Museum and Historical Agency
  • CAS AH 570    Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century American Architecture
  • CAS AH 584    Greater Boston: Architecture and Planning
  • GRS AH 782    Colloquium in Nineteenth-Century Architecture in Europe and America
  • GRS AH 798    Colloquium in Twentieth-Century Architecture
  • GRS AH 884    Seminar: Nineteenth-Century Architecture
  • CAS AR 572    Studies in Industrial Archaeology
  • GRS AR 770    New World Historical Archaeology: Colonial America
  • GRS AR 771    New World Historical Archaeology: Postcolonial America
  • GRS AR 780   Archaeological Ethics and Law
  • GRS AR 805   US Archaeological Heritage Management
  • GRS AR 810   International Heritage Management
  • MET UA 515   History and Theory of Urban Planning

Residency Requirement

Full-time residency over three semesters is desired, but students may also enroll on a part-time basis (two courses per semester) for one or more of their semesters. Some of the core courses are taught in the late afternoon or evening. Students typically finish in four semesters.


A three-month, full-time paid internship in an appropriate public or private agency, firm, or historical commission is an integral part of the program. Placement is approved by the program director. Internships are available with preservation agencies such as the Boston Landmarks Commission, the National Park Service, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and private organizations including the Boston Preservation Alliance, PreservatiONMASS, Historic New England (formerly known as SPNEA), and the Northeast office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In certain cases, prior experience may be considered as equivalent to the internship.

Financial Assistance

Limited financial assistance is available in the form of graduate assistantships or research fellowships. In addition to the required summer internship, many students hold part-time positions with many of the same agencies and nonprofits. The program assists students in finding these opportunities.