Art, its processes and the terms of making art are analysed in their temporal and local contexts. They are examined as cultural, historical, aesthetic and social phenomena from the perspective of, among other things, meaning, production and use. Art historians combine visual, material and spatial analysis with theories and methods in a versatile and multidisciplinary manner. Various theories on culture, meaning and society, such as gender studies, have been central to the continuous redefinition of art history.
Art history is focused on undergraduate education, with research channelled to projects supported by both the Academy of Finland and several foundations. Most visibility is often gained by doctoral dissertation projects.
Teaching and research in art history have moved from comprehensive investigation, which used to be the prevalent research method some decades ago, to familiarisation with theories and the consideration of different perspectives. Prevailing methods for the examination of research topics include applied methods of literary research, gender and cultural studies originating in the United States, and a critical perspective in a wider sense.
Urban studies, an object of interest already for some time in Nordic art history, has strong representation at the University of Helsinki. Already in the 1960s, Professor Henrik Lilius examined Finnish timber-built towns in a European context.