Creating a Collection: A Tour Through the Smith College Museum of Art


To learn about the history of early collecting at Smith, visit "Building a Collection."

In the 1940s, the SCMA deaccessioned and disposed of nearly 100 artworks from its collection. Most of these were American paintings, including some of the first works acquired by the college. 

The sales were largely overseen by Jere Abbott, the SCMA's director from 1932-1946. In 1945, Abbott began writing to Gimbel Brothers, a department store in New York City, about possibly selling artworks with them.[1] Even after Abbott left the museum, the project continued in 1946 under the leadership of Frederick Hartt. 

In fall 1946, Hartt put together lists of the artworks he was interested in removing from the museum's collection and quickly gained approval from the faculty and trustees (the necessary steps for an ethical deaccessioning). Then, most of these works were sent to Gimbels for sale.

Soon, a check for $3,000 arrived at the SCMA, with the notation that it was “to be applied to the redecoration of the Museum.” All in all, in the span of six years, at least one hundred artworks left the SCMA collection, most of which were American works dated to or purchased in the nineteenth century.

Some of these artworks are included on this site to illustrate the College's early collecting practices. Keep an eye out for the artworks with credit lines that belong to other museums. 

[1] Linda Muehlig, “Building (and Unbuilding) the Collections: Jere Abbott, Frederick Hartt and Edgar Schenck, 1932-1949,” in Image and Word: Art and Art History at Smith College (Northampton, MA: Smith College, 2003), 110; “Annotated Timeline of Deaccessioning,” SCMA Deaccessioning Project,

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