"Years ago I decided that the greatest need in our Country was Art… We were a very young country and had very few opportunities of seeing beautiful things, works of art… So, I determined to make it my life's work if I could."

- Isabella Stewart Gardner, on the creation of her Museum, 1917

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum displays an art collection of world importance, including works that rank among the most significant of their type. Isabella Stewart Gardner collected and carefully displayed a collection comprised of more than 2,500 objects—paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, drawings, silver, ceramics, illuminated manuscripts, rare books, photographs and letters—from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Asia, the Islamic world and 19th-century France and America. Built to evoke a 15th-century Venetian palace, the Museum itself provides an atmospheric setting for Isabella Stewart Gardner's inventive creation.

Historical and scholarly endeavors at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, directed by the Curator of the Collection, explore the Museum's permanent collection and the context of Isabella Stewart Gardner's time in order to encourage new ways of thinking about art and culture. Exhibitions examine historical and social perspectives of works of art, resulting in a truly enriching experience for visitors to the Museum. The permanent collection is today a source of inspiration for educators, thinkers and contemporary artists. In 2002, the Museum's first "Scholar-in-Residence" collaborated with Museum curators and the community on research into the life of Japanese art critic Okakura Kakuzo and his influence on Isabella Stewart Gardner. Other recent projects have begun to highlight lesser-known aspects of the permanent collection and archives.

Visit the Museum's virtual reading room to explore books about the historic collection.


Christina Nielsen

William and Lia Poorvu Curator of the Collection and Exhibition Program

Nathaniel Silver

Associate Curator

Elizabeth Reluga

Curatorial Administrator