The Society for the History of Collecting invites you to

The Evolving House Museum: Art Collectors and Their Residences,
Then and Now

A two-day conference held online, 18 &19 June, 2021,

11 am – 2 pm EDT / 4– 7 pm BST


Organised by Margaret Iacono and Esmée Quodbach

Following the session held in February at the College Art Association, the Society is delighted to hold an online conference over two days to explore this topic further. House museums are founded for a variety of reasons, from preserving architecturally significant structures to safeguarding the former homes of historically or culturally noteworthy men and women and their legacies. In other cases, art collectors, such as Henry Clay Frick or Albert C. Barnes, established museums in their former residences to house their collections in perpetuity rather than donating them to preexisting institutions. While many examples like the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum continue to thrive, other lesser-known house museums do not attract enough support to remain operational. House museums must evolve in order to remain relevant and to continue to attract visitors.

This conference will explore a variety of themes relating to art collectors as founders of house museums. The twelve papers will discuss numerous house museums, created over more than two centuries and founded across the globe. Some of the important issues to be considered include: What motivates collectors to establish private house museums instead of donating their collections to preexisting institutions? How have collectors’ original intentions manifested themselves in their museums and to what extent have founder mandates contributed to the survival or demise of their institutions? How have house museums’ collections or buildings evolved over time, and how have museums reinterpreted their collections to remain relevant to contemporary and diverse audiences? Are these changes in keeping with or a departure from their founders’ visions? And how have major historic events like the 2008 financial crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic impacted house museums?

SHC members will be sent joining instructions shortly before the event. Non-members who wish to register for this event, please contact

One thought on “The Evolving House Museum: Art Collectors and Their Residences, Then and Now (18-19 June, 2021)

  1. I am former chief curator of collections at Gardner Museum, Boston and Am senior curator at Musée des BA in Montréal. I look forward to the symposium on house museums.

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