The Museum & Art Gallery was established in 1859 when the Pennsylvania State Legislature consigned one of four cabinets of the state's mineralogical and geological collection to Farmers' High School--the institution that became Pennsylvania State College and then the Pennsylvania State University.
The Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery's art collection was initially was started with the artwork collected by Edward Steidle, dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (1928 - 1953). Steidle collected the artwork to demonstrate visually to his students various industrial processes and the critical role of mineral industries in Pennsylvania.
The founding piece given to the college in 1918 by the artist John Willard Raught, and the bulk of the collection was assembled during the Great Depression—a time when Americans needed reassurance about their country’s economic stability. Rather than turn a critical eye toward Pennsylvania’s industry, most of the paintings in the exhibition instead celebrate the state’s industrial power and its proud workers, who rise from the canvas like modern heroes, draped in the tools of their trade. We continue to use the Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art for visual education as well as historic evidence of the industrial heritage of Pennsylvania.
The collections of the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery have continued to grow. The collections now include approximately 19,000 Earth Materials (rocks, minerals, fossils, industrial byproducts), 4500 Historic Tools of Scientific Research and Education (mine saftey equipment, microscopes, pyrometers, etc.), and 325 works of art in the Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art (paintings, works on paper, sculptures).