The first donations of artwork to Wheaton Female Seminary were portraits of Wheaton family members, including Eliza Wheaton Strong in whose memory the seminary (now Wheaton College) was founded. Over time, items and documents associated with the history of the seminary, and later the college, became part of the Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections. In the mid-1970s, various collections of artwork and ethnographic objects owned by the college were compiled to form the Permanent Collection. Most of the collection has been donated by, in honor of, or due to the efforts of alumni, some of whom, such as Madeline Hunter Farnsworth (Class of 1937), actively collected for the collection. Other donors, including Eleanor Norcross (Class of 1872), were themselves artists and made gifts of their work and of artists they admired. A third set of donors includes individuals who made gifts to Wheaton because they were acquainted with faculty or staff or wanted to enable students to study diverse artistic forms and media. Today, donations remain very important, but several endowed funds provide for the purchase of artwork chosen to enhance teaching and research. In addition, the Wheaton College Friends of Art annually purchases artwork from the Senior Studio Art Majors Exhibition and then donates it to the collection, which also holds artwork by alumni artists and Studio Art faculty.

Named Collections

  • Edgar L. Ashley Collection (textiles)
  • Doris Taylor Bishop Memorial Collection (drawings, prints, sculpture)
  • Dr. Victoria Maxwell Cass, 1934 Wedgwood Collection
  • Clarissa Wentworth Collins, 1911 Collection (lighting devices, paintings)
  • Edgar Eisner and Lucky Dallo Eisner, 1953 Collection (sculpture and stained glass)
  • Madeline Hunter Farnsworth, 1937 Collection (drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture)
  • Ambassador R. Gammon and Mary Renwick Gammon, 1948 Collection (Ethiopica)
  • Alexander B.V. Johnson and Roberta J. M. Olson Collection (drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture)
  • Marjorie Gelb Jones, 1962 Collection (drawings, paintings, and prints)
  • Dr. Eleanor B. Kilham, 1876 Collection (primarily Native North American objects)
  • Kozol Family Collection (paintings, prints, and sculpture)
  • Professor Thomas J. and Margaret D. McCormick, 1946 Collection (ceramics, drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture)
  • Adra M. Newell Bequest (antiquities)
  • Eleanor A. Norcross, 1872 Collection (drawings, paintings, prints)
  • Laila Raabe Collection of Early American Glass
  • Mary Rich (Mrs. Thomas) Richardson Collection (19th century paintings)
  • Shippee Family Collection (drawings, paintings, and prints)
  • Wires Collection of Tiles
  • Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton Collection of Japanese Woodblock Prints