Our permanent collection is particularly strong in Pennsylvania German material culture and works on paper from the 16th century to today. The Berman is also a locus for the study of Françoise Gilot’s life and work, as it is the home of her personal archives and over 270 pieces of her work.
The Berman Museum is distinctive for its stewardship of the sculptures on the Ursinus College campus, integrating art into the lives of the Ursinus community.
History of the Collection
Philip and Muriel Berman humanized the collecting process in the way that they lived with their art: paintings and sculptures were an everyday presence throughout their home. They shared their collections with numerous institutions and believed that by exposing students to art they would make clear the importance of art to a fully lived life.
In 1958, the couple established the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, and ten years later they made their first gift of artwork to Ursinus: 28 Japanese prints in support of the Centennial Campaign.
The Bermans gifted their first outdoor sculpture to Ursinus several years later, in 1980: Glenn Zweygardt’s Upheaval II and Bearkeeper. These two sculptures are still on display along with nearly 80 other outdoor sculptures found throughout the college campus.
The Bermans continued to gift artworks to the college over the next few years, and in 1986, a formal partnership between the Bermans and Ursinus was established, designed to promote and institute the fine arts at the college. Discussions of establishing a fine arts museum for the growing art collection began, and in 1989 the Berman Museum of Art opened in what had previously been the Alumni Memorial Library.
With the establishment of the museum came a large donation of works from Philip and Muriel Berman’s private collection. This gift, combined with the previously existing artwork holdings at Ursinus College, served as a foundation and basis of the museum’s permanent collection. Today, the museum’s permanent collection is comprised of more than 8,000 objects.
The Berman Museum’s collection has continued to expand, due largely to the generosity of a growing group of donors. Th collection now includes significant holdings in contemporary prints, paintings, and sculpture; 19 th - and 20 th -century American and European art; Pennsylvania German Fraktur and material culture; Japanese prints; and a growing collection of photography. Highlights include over 270 works and the personal archive of Françoise Gilot, and over 160 sculptures by British artist Lynn Chadwick.
The museum’s eclectic collection is an important resource for teaching and outreach to both college and community audiences. Ensuring the integrity, preservation, and interpretation of these artworks and artifacts for subsequent generations is an ongoing responsibility sustained in public trust.