The University of Oregon’s art museum opened its doors to the public on June 10, 1933. Designed by Ellis F. Lawrence, UO dean of the School of Architecture & Allied Arts (1914-1946), the museum was built to house the Murray Warner Collection of Oriental Art—more than 3,000 objects given to the University by Gertrude Bass Warner in 1921 as a memorial to her late husband. The original collection primarily represented the cultures of China and Japan. Also included were works from Korea, Mongolia, Cambodia and Russia, as well as American and British pieces influenced by Asian art and culture.
Prince Lucien Campbell, president of the university from 1902 to 1925, and Lawrence, championed the building of an art museum on the University of Oregon campus. President Campbell believed that a university should be a center for culture for the region it serves.
National Register for Historic Places
With its elegant exterior brickwork, decorative moldings and iron grillwork, as well as the peaceful Prince Lucien Campbell Memorial Courtyard, the original museum building is one of the most distinctive architectural structures in Oregon. The museum is listed on the National Register for Historic Places.
Renovating the Museum of Art
In the 1990s university leaders and museum board members launched the Museum Campaign. The UO’s art museum broke ground for its long awaited and much anticipated project in October 2002. With its new name – Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art – in recognition of its major donor, the museum reopened in 2005.
The design of the Chicago firm Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge reinvigorated the revered structure while respecting its historically important architectural elements and spaces.
Today, significantly expanded gallery space allows the museum to host concurrent collections installations as well as changing exhibitions. Educational facilities now include a hands-on interactive discovery gallery and art-making studio. The museum also includes a café, museum store, as well as a lecture hall and reception hall that open onto outdoor courtyards.