The collections of the Stamford Museum are an essential part of the Museum's mission, which includes

"...the preservation and interpretation of art, the natural and agricultural sciences, and history."

The SM&NC collects only the highest-quality objects, consistent with our collections policy, that are exhibition worthy, and in excellent condition.

The Museum subscribes to UNESCO's principles related to cultural property and will not purchase or accept gifts that may have been removed illegally from their countries of origin. The museum adheres to all federal guidelines and the mandates of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

The SM&NC collections have grown since the founding of the Museum in 1936, and have experienced a refined growth since the adoption of a rigorous Collections Policy in 2006. Today, the Stamford Museum maintains a permanent collection of more than 20,000 objects. The collection is defined by five categories:

  • American Art, late 19th century - 1965
  • Native American Art & Artifacts
  • Natural History of New England
  • American History and Culture (pre-1940)
  • Connecticut Agriculture, late 19th century to 1940

For more information, on donating objects, please contact the Curator of Collections office at 203.977.6543.

American Art

The Stamford Museum American art collection consists of paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and mixed media artworks pieces from the 19th and 20th century with special emphasis on the years between 1900 and the 1965. The art collection's founding core is the Shulman collection, formally donated in 1961. This collection of American Social Realists includes noted artists such as Guy Pène du Bois, Reginald Marsh, Milton Avery, Raphael Soyer, Robert Gwathmey, Max Weber and Arnold Blanch. The combined work of these artists represents the trends and developments that took place in American Art in the first three quarters of the 20th century.

The Stamford Museum also maintains a permanent collection of works by Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941), a Stamford resident best known as the creator of Mount Rushmore. Ours is the largest museum-owned collection of Borglum's works in the country, a unique resource for researchers. Also notable are sculptures by local artist Reuben Nakian; and paintings by John Singer Sargent, Ralph Blakelock, Werner Drewes, Alfred Henry Maurer, Jimmy Ernst, and Nicholas Krushenick.

Native American Art and Artifacts

The Stamford Museum collects art and artifacts illustrative of the diverse cultures of our nation's first inhabitants, with special emphasis on the people of the Northeast. The collection includes prehistoric, historic, and contemporary objects from across North America. Most holdings date from about 1850 to about 1940. Highlights of the Native American collection, including documented collections of archaeological material, are the Eric collection which includes baskets, pottery, rugs, and musical instruments from the Southwest and the Norman-Bradley collection of baskets, which includes extremely rare and well documented baskets from the West and Northwest.

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Natural History of New England

The Stamford Museum's collection consists of legally harvested specimens that demonstrate the rich variety of life forms, past and present, found in the New England area, as well as those illustrative of our natural habitat. They include mounted animal specimens, bird study skins, bird eggs and nests, insects, rocks, minerals, fossils, animal models, natural history prints, and extinct species that are especially important for their research and educational value. The most outstanding components are the Porter Bird Study Skin and Rowell Egg collections, including specimens collected at the turn of the 19th century with documentation as to location and date.

American History & Culture

The Stamford Museum collection includes materials illustrative of American History, from the 18th century through the 1950s. Collecting fields include lighting devices, tools, toys, bottles, kitchen utensils, and other household implements, spinning wheels, photographic images, early scientific and mechanical devices, hardware, Civil War memorabilia, Valentine cards, and other ephemera.

Particular attention has been paid to the collection of objects with a direct tie to the history of Stamford, including books, clothing, photographs and household implements. The most prized possessions within this field are Stamford-related collections, such as the Lockwood whittling collection, made by George Lockwood, in the early 1900s; the Smith locomotive, made by Fred Smith in the 1940s; and the Yale & Towne ancient and antique lock collection, once owned by the Yale & Towne Company, formerly of Stamford. As with many regional "neighborhood" museums, the collection also contains many miscellaneous objects. Received from the 1930s through 1950s, this collection includes more than 500 objects from classical antiquity; art and objects from African, Asian and Pacific cultures as well as WPA dolls, astronomical equipment, coins, flags, films, and musical recordings.

Agricultural Tools & Equipment

The addition of a working farm to the SM&NC property in the 1950s was followed by numerous contributions of antique and vintage farming implements from area residents. The parameters of this collection are tools and implements typical of a small New England farm. They include farm vehicles, horse and oxen harnessing equipment; planting and harvesting tools; animal husbandry equipment, food processing tools and storage containers, ice-harvesting and maple sugaring devices, and various construction, repair and maintenance tools. A portion of this collection is on view in the Cheshire barn.

Education Collection

The Museum's educational mission is reflected not only in displays and exhibitions but in its numerous offerings of classes, workshops, and programs. Education Collection materials are not formally accessioned into the permanent collection, instead, they are used to enhance the learning experience of participants in these programs. The objects are expected to be handled by the instructor and students, and a certain amount of wear and tear, or even their eventual destruction, is to be expected.

A Collections Committee, which includes the Museum's Executive Director & CEO, board members, community representatives, and the Curator of Collections, meets bi-monthly to evaluate these collections and to consider objects for possible acquisition or deaccession. Committee members also guide the exhibition schedule and the loan process of SM&NC collection material to other institutions.

Collections Care & Preservation

The Museum is dedicated to providing first-rate care for its collections and has an active conservation program. The sculpture being restored in this photograph is one of The Four Seasons, a group of Italian sculptures in the gardens. While this project has been completed, other artworks and collection objects have been identified as requiring conservation treatment. Individuals, groups, and organizations are invited to "adopt" a specific art work or object by sponsoring its restoration or care protocol.

Building the Collection

The Stamford Museum still collects objects that meet our well-defined Collections Policy. We are interested in acquiring:

  • New England Native American objects, photographs, and documents
  • Artworks, documents and memorabilia relating to Gutzon Borglum (American, 1867-1941)
  • Artworks by Reuben Nakian (American, 1897-1986).
  • Full mounts of animal specimens native to New England (for the Education Collection)
  • Artworks from "The Eight:" Robert Henri (American, 1865-1929), George Luks (American, 1867-1933), William Glackens (American, 1870-1938), John Sloan (American, 1871-1951), Everett Shinn (American, 1876-1953), Maurice Prendergast (American, 1859-1924), Ernest Lawson (American, 1873-1939) and Arthur Bowen Davies (American, 1862-1928)
  • WPA art
  • Art by Social Realists
  • Early American lighting devices
  • Early toys, piggy-banks and other child-oriented objects
  • Early ice-harvesting and maple sugaring devices in excellent condition