The collecting activities of the Henry Art Gallery began in 1926 when Horace C. Henry offered 172 works of art and $97,000 to the University of Washington to construct the first public art museum in Seattle. The Henry’s fine art collections have grown through subsequent donations, notably with significant gifts of prints in the 1970s and the establishment of the Monsen Photography collection in 1979. The construction of the Reed Gallery in 1980, the antecedent of the present Reed Collection Study Center, allowed increased access to collections by students, professors, and outside scholars. Recent collecting activities have focused on acquiring works representing developments in contemporary art, particularly in the areas of photography, new media, and installation art. The Henry’s permanent collection includes over 24,000 objects.
The Henry Art Gallery collection also includes the extensive holdings of the University of Washington’s former Costume and Textile Study Center, transferred to the Henry Art Gallery in 1982. This unique regional resource focuses on design and process.