75, And Having Some Work Done

Writer: 
November 30, 2005
Duke Museum of Art, 1969

Trinity College Historical Society Museum,  circa 1910

Moving museum: Trinity College Historical Society Museum, 
circa 1910; Duke Museum of Art, 1969, top 
Duke University Archives

The roots for Duke's Nasher Museum of Art go back to the founding of the Trinity College Historical Society in 1892, the year Trinity College moved from Randolph County to Durham. While the society collected historical documents and school records that became the foundation for the library's special collections and the university's archives, there was still the goal of establishing a campus museum.

A planning committee was formed on October 13, 1894. By 1895, enough artifacts and relics had been collected to fill a large case. In 1896, the museum found its first home in Epworth Building. When the campus library building was completed in 1904, a special room with a fireproof vault and display space became its second home. As part of the expansion when Trinity became Duke in the late 1920s, portions of the Trinity College Historical Society's collections were dispersed into library collections and others placed in storage.

In 1930, history professor and Trinity graduate William K. Boyd pursued the concept of a library-museum for the Woman's College Library (now Lilly Library on East Campus) and organized the campus Art Association. The association planned and organized exhibits, gallery talks, and other art events until Boyd's death in 1938, after which the activities of the Art Association went into decline. Over the next several decades, art and artifacts would continue to be stored and displayed in the Woman's College Library.

It took three decades for another campus space to be designated as a museum. The Duke University Museum of Art opened to the public in 1969 in a renovated science building on East Campus, with the Brummer Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Art as its core.