Princeton University’s Art Museum began life in the 19th century, its collection intended to be part of a groundbreaking curriculum in art scholarship at a time when few of the world’s universities offered schooling in art history. The original collection was a private donation of pottery and porcelain by William C. Prime (class of 1843), a New York journalist and founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Trumbull-Prime Collection (including his wife’s maiden name) was delivered in 1890 on completion of the fireproof building that was to house the collection and the University’s art history department. According to the curriculum developed by Prime and University president James McCosh, the Museum would be integral to the program, allowing students immediate access to the works of art they would study.
Over the years, the collection of the museum grew rapidly as it acquired works in many different media from across the globe. In 1963, the original building was torn down for a new facility, completed in 1966. A 27,000 square foot addition in 1989 allowed ample space for the Museum to focus on the original purpose for which it was built: study of the works in Princeton’s art curriculum.
The Museum’s collection today numbers over 72,000 pieces, with strengths in Greek and Roman antiquities, Chinese and Pre-Columbian art, prints and drawings of the Old Masters, and photography. A continuous rotation of exhibitions features works in the permanent collection, traveling exhibitions, and brings works from the region’s numerous art museums to focus on particular artists and periods in art history.
Princeton University Art Museum Information
- Public Transportation: Good (accessible by a number of bus and rail routes)
- Handicapped Accessible: Good
- Hours: Tues, Weds, Fri, Sat 10 am-5 pm; Thurs 10 am-10 pm; Sun 1-5 pm; Closed Mondays and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Holidays.
- Admission: Admission is always free to the public.
- Membership: Individual annual membership is $75 ($40 Students, $125 Dual/Family); benefits include exhibit previews, special events and Museum Store discounts.
- Tours: Group tours (docent-led or self-guided) are available at many times throughout the week. A fee is charged, depending on the group size, and is smaller for self-guided tours. School tours are also available, for up to 48 visitors per time slot.