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

How Museums Collect

It's one thing to know why the SCMA collects, it's another to know how it does this. There are many ways the SCMA can “acquire”—get—a new object for its collection.

Sometimes the SCMA buys the art it wants, from the artist or from a professional who sells art for artists. Museums can also receive artworks as gifts. Sometimes artists donate their art, or sometimes an art-lover will donate it. Also, sometimes an art-lover promises to donate an artwork after they pass away. This is called “bequeathing.” 

In all of these cases, though, the SCMA has to be sure that the artwork is something the museum really wants and needs for its collection. Just as removing something from the collection can be a big decision, adding a new artwork takes a lot of careful thought. This is because artworks use the museum's resources--including space in the gallery and storage, money and time for conservation, and thought for developing educational resources for the artwork.

Click on one of the pages below to learn more about how museums get new artworks for their collections. 

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