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Parsons School of Design course catalog collection

Identifier: PC-05-01-01


This collection consists of publications from Parsons New School of Design and its affiliate programs, including catalogs for overseas schools, and continuing education and AAS programs. Catalogs hold information on school policies and admissions requirements, course descriptions, faculty rosters, and examples of student work. Materials for the years 1896-1912 consists primarily of photocopies of print advertisements for the Chase School of Art.


  • 1896 - 2016



12.2 Cubic Feet (9 boxes, 2 folders, 379 digital objects)

Scope and Content of Collection

Catalogs contain information regarding pedagogy objectives, school policies and admissions requirements, departmental and course descriptions, faculty and administration rosters, facilities, fees, and examples of student work (often uncredited). Even the earliest publications are heavily illustrated.

The first complete course catalog in the series (photocopied reproduction) is for the 1912-1913 academic year. The oldest original catalog is a 1913 catalog for a summer session held in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. The oldest original catalog for classes held in New York is for the 1914-1915 school year.

In 1921, the New York School of Fine and Applied Art, as it was then known, opened a facility in Paris's Place des Vosges, which the school called the Paris Ateliers. Separate catalogs were created for the Paris Ateliers. Although this branch of Parsons closed at the onset of World War II in Europe, Parsons re-established European study abroad programs in the late 1940s, which evolved into Parsons Paris. In 2013, Parsons established an academic center in Paris at 45, rue Saint Roch. Catalogs for this program will be found in the Affiliate Schools sub-series along with catalogs for other Parsons facilities in California (Otis), the Dominican Republic (Altos de Chavon), Korea (Samsung), and Japan (Kanazawa). This series is arranged alphabetically by school name and then chronologically by date of publication.

Catalogs for continuing education classes will be found in the Continuing Education and AAS (Associate of Applied Science) sub-series. These catalogs are arranged chronologically by date of publication, beginning in 1970. Parsons offered early incarnations of continuing education-style classes as well as classes for children prior to 1970. Information about these programs is generally included with general school catalogs or in pamphlet form as a catalog supplement.

As the school grew, the catalogs changed to include less course description and more administrative information, making them a valuable resource for researchers seeking to learn about the school's operation and transformation from a fine arts school to a large design college. For example, the 1920-1921 catalog contains an announcement regarding a newly established "Student Self-Government Organization." At various points, the catalogs also included graduating class rosters and lists of available scholarships. Separate summer catalogs were issued until 1954, when a fold-out mailer replaced the traditional catalog format for the summer semester. Beginning in the 1970s, the catalogs were used to showcase student work, and frequently titled "Portfolio and Catalog" to reflect that emphasis. From 1976 to 1980, Parsons catalogs were assigned volume and issue numbers in series with the rest of the New School Bulletins, but from 1980 to the present they have been given separate volume and issue numbers.

Language of Materials

The bulk of the catalogs are in English, although catalogs in the Affiliate Schools series contain Spanish, Korean and Japanese.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Historical Note

Parsons Names Timelines

Chase School of Art is founded in New York City.
Chase School of Art is renamed New York School of Art.
New York School of Art is incorporated.
New York School of Art is re-incorporated under the Regents of the University of the State of New York as the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. (source: 1942)
New York School of Fine and Applied Art establishes overseas campus, Paris Ateliers.
Paris Ateliers closes. Although Parsons sponsors study abroad programs in France after World War Two, the name "Paris Ateliers" is never used again.
New York School of Fine and Applied Art officially renamed Parsons School of Design. It had previously been called Parsons informally.
Parsons School of Design is affiliated with the New School for Social Research.
Catalogs available from Otis Art Institute based in Los Angeles, affiliated with Parsons 1978-1991.
Catalogs available from Altos de Chavon, Parsons affiliated school based in the Dominican Republic.
Catalogs available from Kanazawa International Design Insitute (KIDI) in Japan, Parsons affiliated school based in Japan.
Catalogs available from Center for Advanced Design, Parsons affiliated school in Malaysia.
Catalogs available from Samsung Art and Design Institute (SADI), Parsons affiliated school based in Korea.
Catalogs available from Parsons Paris.

Parsons School of Design was established in 1896 as the Chase School of Art. While founded as a school of fine arts instruction, it soon added courses in "applied arts," which became the primary focus under the direction of Frank Alvah Parsons. The name of the school changed several times, to the New York School of Art in 1902, then to the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in 1909. In 1940, the Board of Trustees voted to change the school's name to Parsons School of Design in recognition of Frank Alvah Parsons' leadership and to differentiate it from other, similarly named institutions.

In 1921, Parsons' European School opened with headquarters in France called the Paris Ateliers. The Ateliers closed in 1939 due to the escalation of World War Two, and never reopened in its pre-war form. Parsons' summer study tours of Europe resumed in the late 1940s. When Parsons affiliated with the New School for Social Research in 1970, students could for the first time earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the New School (before the merger, students earned either a certificate for a three-year program of study at Parsons, or a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree granted by New York University, by taking courses at both schools). A more robust, year-round overseas program resumed at Parsons in the late 1970s under the leadership of Dean David C. Levy. The 1970s also saw the growth of continuing education programs at Parsons, and the introduction of an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree track. In the 1980s, Parsons developed a number of partnerships with international schools, and merged with the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. The first Parsons graduate program was established at Parsons in 1978, in Fine Arts, with masters programs in other areas added in subsequent years, including a Master of Architecture program begun in 1989.

Custodial History

Collection assembled by Archives' staff from a legacy collection maintained by the school library, and through transfers from various administrative offices between approximately 1994 and 2012.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transerred to the New School Archives from Parsons School of Design's Adam and Sophie Gimbel Design Library.

Related Materials

Circulars, mailers, postcards, and other formats promoting Parsons School of Design will be found in the related collection of print advertising, Parsons School of Design marketing and promotional materials collection (PC.05.03.01). Additionally, posters produced and distributed by Parsons as recruitment tools will be found in the Parsons School of Design poster collection (pre-2007) (PC.05.07.01). Many of these general recruitment posters are related in theme and graphic style to the catalogs because they were produced as part of the same campaign. During the 1980s and 1990s, various departments issued their own catalogs, and these will be found in the Parsons School of Design academic departments, programs and schools collection (pre-2009 accessions) (PC.02.01.01), although course descriptions duplicate those in the general Parsons catalogs. The Eugene Paul Ullman papers (KA.0042) in the New School Archives contains the earliest known original course listing issued in pamphlet form. This prospectus for the New York School of Art covers the years 1896 to 1902.

Guide to the Parsons School of Design course catalog collection, 1896-2012
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
November 5, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • July 2, 2019: New School Archives staff added digital-only catalogs from 2010-2016 to collection inventory, updated instance and digital object links.
  • December 2, 2020: Anna Robinson-Sweet added missing digital object links for catalogs that had previously been uploaded to digital collections database.
  • August 10, 2023: Victoria Fernandez added components and digital object links for catalogs previously uploaded to digital collections database (Altos de Chavon, after 1986; Otis Art Institute, 1983; Parsons Paris, 2006-2007; Samsung Art and Design Institute (SADI), 1995).