Palmer Museum of Art

Bronze paws flank the entrance to the Palmer Museum of Art. (Centre County Encyclopedia)

The Palmer Museum of Art, on Curtin Road in the core of the University Park campus, is Penn State’s art museum.

Founded in 1972, it is largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. After an extensive expansion and renovation, the museum was renamed in 1993 in honor of benefactors, James and Barbara Palmer.

The current Palmer Museum features eleven galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium and an outdoor sculpture garden. Its entrance steps are flanked by the museum’s signature bronze lion’s paws, intended as a playful, modern take on the traditional lion figures that adorn many public buildings.

The museum contains more than 10,000 artworks, including contemporary studio glass, ceramics, African art, Asian art, European Old Master paintings and sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and other works on paper, and modern and contemporary art. Its American art collection is noteworthy, especially its collection of early American modernism with examples by members of The Eight, the Ashcan School, and the Stieglitz Circle.

James Palmer was the president and chief executive officer of C-Cor Electronics and Centre Video, a predecessor of Comcast. The Palmers began donating works of art to the museum from their private collection before the museum was renamed in their honor.

Barbara Palmer continued the practice after her husband’s death in 2001, and when she died in 2019, the museum received more than 200 works of art from her estate. The couple’s gifts have been valued at more than $50 million.

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free.

A new $85 million, 71,000-square-foot museum will open in 2023 on Bigler Road. It will nearly double the amount of exhibition space and will be integrated with the neighboring Arboretum at Penn State.

The facility will feature education spaces, including a teaching gallery, and flexible event spaces. It will also offer expanded workspaces for collections processing, and exhibition preparation, and curation. The museum is designed to be a series interlocking pavilions built of local stone, evoking the geology of central Pennsylvania. It will also feature indoor and outdoor courtyards that will provide framed views of the Arboretum.

Curtis Chan


Palmer Museum of Art. (Accessed August 5, 2021).

“Palmer Museum of Art announces landmark bequest of benefactor Barbara R. Palmer,” Penn State News, September 10, 2019.

“Trustees approve final plans for new Palmer Museum of Art,” Penn State News, May 7, 2021.

First Published: August 18, 2021

Last Modified: August 9, 2022