Instructional departments offering art and music classes have gone through a number of significant name changes over the course of UNI history. When the institution was founded in 1876, as the Iowa State Normal School, courses in art and music were offered in the Art Department. This department name persisted until 1892, when the school began to go through its first major differentiation of subject matter and department re-organization. In 1892, the Art Department split into the Penmanship and Drawing Department and the Vocal and Instrumental Music Department. In 1894, the Penmanship and Drawing Department became the Drawing Department. The Drawing Department and the Vocal and Instrumental Music Department persisted until 1896, when they both changed to simpler and more inclusive names. The Drawing Department became the Art Department, and the Vocal and Instrumental Music Department became the Music Department.
The Art Department persisted until 1907, when its programs were folded into the new Manual Arts Department. This unusual combination of Art and Vocational Education would recur, with Art emerging as an independent department and then returning to some sort of combined department. In this instance, art classes stayed in the Manual Arts Department just two years. In 1909 the Art Department emerged and remained independent until 1922, when it became part of the new Art and Manual Arts Department. This name was stable until 1935, when the name was simplified to Arts Department. In 1948 the Arts Department split into the Industrial Arts Department and the Art Department. The Art Department has remained an independent department since that time.
The Music Department name remained stable until 1909, when it began to go through a period of differentiation. In 1909, the Music Department split to become the Public School Music Department, Orchestral and Band Music Department, Pianoforte Music Department, and the Voice Department. It is not clear how substantial these differentiations were. Only one of these "departments" had a department head, for example, and each of the faculties was very small. But the catalogue notes these highly specialized groups. This differentiation does establish the split between music for education (Public School Music) and music for performance (Orchestral and Band, Pianoforte, and Voice) that would exist for many years to come.
This array of departments lasted just two years. In 1911 there were only two music departments: the Music Department and the Violin, and Orchestral and Band Music Department. In 1916, the Violin, and Orchestral and Band Music Department simplified its name to Orchestral Music and stayed with that name until 1934. In 1919, the Music Department shifted to Public School Music for one year, after which it returned to Music Department. In 1929 it again changed to Public School Music before shifting back again to Music Department in 1931. In 1934, long-time head of the Music/Public School Music Department Charles A. Fullerton retired from the regular instructional faculty and moved to the Extension Division. The college took that opportunity to combine the Orchestral Music Department and the Music/Public School Music faculty into a single department called simply the Music Department. This name remained unchanged until 1978 when the department become the School of Music.
Both the Art Department and the Music Department (now School of Music) have been departments in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts since its organization in 1968.