The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum is a 20th-century cabinet of curiosities. The Museum consists of the diverse collections of Joseph Skinner (1867-1946), a local manufacturer and philanthropist. Skinner was interested in both local history and the artifacts of other cultures and he accumulated an eclectic mix of objects from western Massachusetts and around the world.
The Museum’s collections include early American furniture and decorative arts, a 19th-century “gentleman’s” library, lighting devices, arms and armor, American Indian material culture, minerals and fossils, and travel souvenirs from China, Egypt, and many other locales. The Museum also houses objects of pre-industrial America, including agricultural and carpentry tools, artifacts of textile production, cooking utensils, and dairying equipment. The Museum is located in an early 19th-century Congregational church; the church was moved to its current location from the town of Prescott when the Quabbin Reservoir was created in the 1930s.
The Skinner Museum opened to the public in 1932 and became part of the Mount Holyoke College campus upon Skinner’s death in 1946. Today, the Skinner Museum is administered by the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and continues to be preserved as a resource for the campus and the community, in keeping with Joseph Skinner’s original vision.