The Muscarelle Museum of Art is located in Lamberson Hall between Morton Hall and Phi Beta Kappa Hall on the new campus area of William & Mary. Its mission is to provide a rich cultural resource for the community and to pursue an active role in the overall cultural life of the region through collections, outreach and educational programs, research and study, and the presentation of exhibitions and works of art.

In the 1970s, there were dozens of paintings scattered throughout campus desperately in need of protection and care. A survey of all art on campus owned by William & Mary was conducted by Miles Chappell, a professor in the Art History Department, at the request of President Thomas A. Graves, Jr. The Board of Visitors authorized the preparation of working drawings for the museum in 1981 after Joseph L. Muscarelle, class of 1927, and his wife, Margaret P. Muscarelle, gave $600,000 to the construction of the museum. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 6, 1981, and the museum was dedicated on October 21, 1983.

The Museum opened in 1983 with Glenn Lowry (later director at MOMA in New York) as the first director and underwent a major building construction and remodeling project in 1987, which resulted in a facility twice the original size. In 1988, the museum became the first college or university museum of art in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. The color wall, "Sun Sonata," was a featured part of the museum's exterior at this time. The glass side wall is a series of colored solar water tubes designed by Gene Davis in 1987.

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