The Art Collection at Bridwell Library
The acquisition of display collections at Bridwell Library has sometimes been more serendipitous than intentional. In 1950 when the School of Theology library moved from the north end of the SMU campus to the facility funded by Joseph Sterling Bridwell in the newly-built Perkins School of Theology a number of objects could not be stacked as neatly as the books on shelves. In particular, The A. V. Lane Museum which included the archeological collection gathered by its namesake as well as ethno-cultural artifacts added to it by others, was best housed in permanent vitrines. Used in the Old Testament curriculum, the objects also were popular with undergraduate students and in the larger community as Bridwell became a destination for area school tours.
In the years that followed friends and supporters met a need to enhance study rooms and collections as they offered artifacts, framed drawings, prints, and paintings, sculptures, fine furnishings and decorative arts, and objects for religious use. As wall and collection space filled gift acceptance became increasingly circumspect. (Today’s practice is to add display items only when direct support of the library’s mission or to existing collections can be demonstrated.)
A facility renovation completed in 2022 provided an impetus to display selections from the eclectic collection to an extent not seen in the previous thirty years. The following online component of this display, available upon the scan of a QR code posted near each object, provides context to works throughout the building. Note: some items are located in areas of the building off-view from the public. They are available only by special arrangement.