MA in Preservation Studies

Changes to this program will take effect in the 2015–2016 academic year.

The Preservation Studies Program provides the interdisciplinary training necessary for successful careers in the analysis and management of historic and cultural resources. Boston and New England have long been at the center of the preservation movement and home to many of its founders and the people and places that stand at the forefront of the field. The program integrates challenging coursework with extensive opportunities for practical, professional experience through group projects, independent work, and internships.

Students in the program engage firsthand with both time-tested and innovative forms of preservation practice and receive essential preparation in preservation planning, research and documentation, 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. 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. Together these provide a broad grounding that emphasizes the variety of historic resources and the diversity of approaches to their preservation. Applicants should have a BA in a related disciple and show evidence of coursework or other experience with historic preservation.

Course Requirements

Students must complete 12 courses (48 credits) at the 500 level or above.

  • Required courses are as follows:
    • CAS AM 546: Place of Memory: Historic Preservation Theory and Practice
    • 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
    • GRS AM 755: Preservation Planning Colloquium or a directed study (see Major Project below)
  • Students are also required to take three courses that address the built environment from among those offered by the American & New England Studies Program, the Department of Archaeology, or the Department of History of Art & Architecture
  • Students choose three electives from the departments named above as well as from Administrative Science, Arts Administration, and Urban Affairs in BU’s Metropolitan College, and in the School of Law

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 and the program director.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.


An integral part of the program is a paid internship in an appropriate public or private agency, firm, or historical commission. Students should work full time for 10 weeks (or the equivalent in part-time work). 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, Preservation Massachusetts, Historic New England, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In certain cases, prior experience may be considered as equivalent to the internship.

Major Project

Students will also complete a major project prior to graduation. This may be an individual master’s project, a master’s thesis, or a group planning project through GRS AM 755: Preservation Planning Colloquium. Generally, the individual master’s project or thesis is tailored to complement the student’s coursework and career goals. The master’s thesis follows University rules for academic research and its presentation, directed by a member of the American Studies faculty; see the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for these requirements.

A master’s project may adopt standards and formats of the preservation field, such as those for survey and National Register listing, historic structure reports, preservation plans, design guidelines, economic feasibility studies, or community development reports. Most projects build upon work begun in core or advanced classes, directed studies, or internships.