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For many centuries now, universities have served as society’s primary institutions for the preservation of knowledge and intellectual heritage. It should come as no surprise that the art museums maintained by universities are therefore some of the best places to explore culture and gain a new perspective on art. Hundreds of colleges and universities around the world host their own personal museums and galleries. This tradition is rooted in the development of permanent collections in European art academies several centuries ago.

Those classed as museums play host to a permanent collection of works, whereas galleries are typically a more dynamic space that will host a rotation of different exhibitions. In the USA alone there are almost 700 such institutions! Whether it be a museum or a gallery, paying a visit to a college art museum is an educational experience that should never be passed up. To help plan your next museum visit, here’s a list of the 7 best college art museums worldwide!

Yale University Art Gallery - New Haven, Connecticut
Yale University is known around the world for its outstanding quality of education, so it should come as no surprise that its art collection is of equally impressive stature. The collection housed by the Yale University Art Gallery contains over 200,000 works by artists from all around the world. The international selection of artists represented in the Yale University Art Gallery spans Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa, and beyond. The museum is located at the same site as the university itself in New Haven, Connecticut and visitors can enjoy works of a broad variety including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and film screenings. They also feature a rotation of changing exhibitions, so every visit will offer a new experience. Being one of the world’s most renowned educational institutions, it’s no surprise that a regular fixture of the Yale University Art Gallery is their programme of interesting art talks and lectures.

Cantor Arts Center - Stanford, California
Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center is a large college art museum that has been in operation for over 125 years. Over the past century, the institute has amassed a sizable collection, with the number of works housed currently exceeding 38,000. Throughout its long history, the Cantor Arts Center museum has established itself as an irreplaceable hub for culture and art in the area surrounding Stanford and has played a major role in pupils’ learning. The center itself is in an architecturally impressive building that offers 24 distinct museum spaces that feature both exhibitions and permanent collections. Being such a staple of the Bay Area’s cultural sphere, the Cantor Arts Center also offers educational tours, lectures, and a programme of film screenings. Anyone passing through the Bay Area should be sure to include a stop to the Cantor Arts Center museum on their itinerary.

Rhode Island School of Design - Providence, Rhode Island
The Rhode Island School of Design has a reputation both in the USA and around the world for being one of the leading art institutes for students. The college’s curriculum offers pupils the opportunity to gain practical skills in the full spectrum of artistic pursuits, from painting and drawing to sculpture, architecture, and graphic design. It hardly comes as a surprise, therefore, that the collection housed by the Rhode Island School of Design displays some of the greatest talents that both the USA and international artists have to offer. The museum serves to inspire not only the pupils of the university but also all those who visit it.

Hammer Museum - Los Angeles, California
The Hammer Museum was established in 1990 as a philanthropic gesture by oil magnate Armand Hammer. Since its foundation, the museum promptly became incorporated into the University of California Los Angeles (or UCLA), and merged with the university’s pre-existing Wight Art Gallery. The addition of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts and the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden allowed the museum to grow to an impressive size and become one of the most important hubs of culture in the area. A highlight of the Hammer Museum is its Hammer modern collection, in which the museum foregrounds art produced locally in Los Angeles.

University of Michigan Museum of Art - Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan’s Museum of Art in Ann Arbor is one of the oldest art museums in the whole of the USA. The collection of the museum numbers over 20,000 works that span an impressive breadth of artistic traditions. When taking a visit to the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art museum, visitors can expect to see both original works by classic masters like Picasso, as well as modern examples of art from the USA, Europe, Africa, and beyond.

Rose Art Museum - Waltham, Massachusetts
The Rose Art Museum was founded for Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 1961 with the intention of foregrounding works of contemporary artists. True to its goal, the museum currently plays host to thousands of works of modern art and features famous modernist names such as Willem de Kooning and Roy Lichtenstein. Pupils from both Brandeis University and the many surrounding universities in Massachusetts enjoy visiting the Rose Art Museum’s gallery of modern masterpieces.

Princeton University Art Museum - Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton University is another of the USA’s most prestigious educational institutes, and their museum serves as a testament to this. One of the oldest such museum institutions in the USA, the Princeton University Art Museum has been collecting works of art in many styles and mediums since before America was even declared an independent country! Currently, the museum boasts an impressive range of paintings, statues, and contemporary works and is a constant source of inspiration to the large student body of Princeton University and the state of New Jersey as a whole.

These are seven of the most impressive college art institutions in the world that should make it on to everyone’s bucket list. Whether a student or just a casual art enthusiast, these university galleries should simply not be missed!

About the author
Bertha Graham is a college education expert with a specialisation in art and culture. With over 5 years of experience in writing about education, Bertha now works as an art and cultural specialist at PapersOwl, where she helps university students with their writing.

Her work has been featured in a wide variety of journals, blogs, and magazines.

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