History of Design and Curatorial Studies

MA HDCS Alumni Spotlight: PJ Carlino

Posted on August 10, 2016 | posted by: adht

Since graduating from the MA History of Decorative Arts and Design program in 2012, PJ Carlino has been hard at work completing a PhD program in American & New England Studies at Boston University. Read his reflection below to learn more about what he’s been up to and how the MA HDCS program has helped him shape his academic path!


I’ve had a life-long fascination with history, product design and manufacturing.  Prior to enrolling in the MA program, I received a BFA from Parsons School of Design and had a career as a cabinetmaker and designer of retail fixtures.  I taught furniture design at Parsons and then for a number of years served as Director of Administration before returning to teaching in the senior studio and other courses in Product Design.

In 2012 I received a MA in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from the Parsons School of Design/Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum after completing my thesis “Enduring Furniture at an Affordable Price: Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Business Models.” While in the MA program I gained valuable professional experience by co-curating the exhibit “Inspiring Women: Selected Designers from Parsons’ Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Archives” and by completing a Windgate Fellowship in contemporary craft at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

After an inspiring conversation with Dr. Marilyn Cohen, and with the support of many of the MA professors, I entered the PhD program in American & New England Studies at Boston University where I’ve been able to deepen my research in material culture. While at B. U. I participated in a year-long National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on planning, completed a fellowship from Winterthur Museum cataloging Boston-made furniture as part of the Boston Furniture Archive, and served as Editorial Assistant on Buildings and Landscapes – the journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum. This past spring I was the Graduate Student Coordinator of The Dynamic City: Futures for the Past  , a 2-day conference on historic Preservation and the future of cities. I’m currently completing a prospectus for my dissertation which will investigate modernization and the roots of industrial design in the late nineteenth century through an examination of the contract furniture industry.

The knowledge and enthusiasm of the professors and students in the MA program, and the rigorous demands of completing a thesis under Dr. Barry Harwood provided me with the tools I needed to more actively participate in teaching and to succeed in my research. I plan to return to teaching design and history in the near future, as well as participating in various public history projects.