The history of Princeton University and of the collecting of art for Princeton are deeply interwoven. Founded in 1882, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country. From the founding gift of a collection of porcelain and pottery, the collections have grown to over 92,000 works of art that range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America.
The Museum offers a year-round schedule of special exhibitions, constantly changing displays of works from the Museum’s collections, internship opportunities, and a dynamic program of educational and social activities (particularly the Late Thursdays offerings). Opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students also include becoming a Student Tour Guide and joining the Museum’s Student Advisory Board.
Student Tour Guides
Art Museum student tour guides give public highlights tours of the collection on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. during the academic year. Tour guide training is provided as a one-week, intensive “boot camp” during Intersession in January. Training includes an in-depth exploration of the collections with curators, workshops on topics such as tour technique and visitor engagement, and a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Student tour guides commit to at least one highlights tour per semester and to meetings on the first Sunday of each month. No previous art history coursework is required, only an interest in art and interacting with the public.
Student Advisory Board
The Student Advisory Board is comprised of currently enrolled undergraduate Princeton University students, elected each winter. Board members assist with the planning of social events at the Art Museum, including the annual Student Gala in the fall, the Failed Love event in the winter, and Inspiration Night in the spring.
Since the museum’s formal establishment in 1882, when it was cofounded alongside the University’s Department of Art and Archaeology, object-based teaching has been central to University teaching and to the life of the Museum.
The Museum hosts precepts led by professors from the Department of Art and Archaeology as well as a diverse range of departments University-wide, including the departments of Comparative Literature, Physics, History, English, African American Studies, Music, French, and Latin American Studies.
Each year, a team of curators, the director, and other members of the Museum’s staff teach a freshman seminar titled “Behind the Scenes: Inside the Princeton University Art Museum.” Here, students explore the role of the museum in the 21st century, ethical and policy issues such as cultural property ownership, collecting, the preservation of the past, and public engagement, as well as aspects of exhibition planning, from research and narrative development to loans and installations.