As an interdisciplinary museum, the collections are wide-ranging and include significant holdings in American folk art, works on paper, works created by art practitioners with connections to Northeast Pennsylvania, rocks, minerals, birds, plants, and Dorflinger glass. Only a small percentage of the collection is ever on view at a time. The collection has grown over many years and expanded on Dr. Everhart’s dream for the institution.
The Everhart offers holdings of African, American, Asian, European and contemporary art as well as design arts and spans different time periods and cultures. The collections comprise paintings, sculpture, decorative, industrial, prints, drawings, photographs, as well as textiles.
The Museum was founded by Dr. Everhart primarily due to his fascination with Ornithology. As a result, the Museum has an extensive collection of birds from the Northeastern Pennsylvania region. The natural history collection also contains mammals, rocks, fossils, minerals, plant specimens, shell, and coral. The natural history collection also contains animals, rocks, fossils, minerals, plant specimens, shell, coral and a few wet specimens. In 1920, less than 20 years after the founding of the Museum, the collection contained more than 2,300 bird specimens, 50 fish, 400 mammals, 150 reptiles, 35 amphibians, 2,100 botanical specimens, 25,000 shells, 300 fossils and 800 minerals.
The Museum’s collection developed over the course of decades. The Museum’s original collection from the early 1900s consisted of taxidermied birds and other natural history specimens. Eventually, the collection grew to include pieces of art from artists of local, national, and international renown but the focus did not shift towards fine art until the 1930s.
In 1929, the Museum underwent a vast expansion altering the original plan of three separate structures into one building. The renovated Museum now had fifteen galleries to display its growing collection. The expanded Museum allowed for an increased focus on acquiring art for the Museum’s permanent collection.
The scope of the Everhart’s collection grew even further following a donation from two donors from Scranton, Mr. John Law Robertson and Mrs. Rhetta Church Robertson. The Robertsons’ collection, which consisted of American Folk Art, African Art, and Oceanic Art. The collection was originally displayed at the Everhart in the 1930s, after which the Robertsons decided to donate a large portion of it to the Museum. This donation formally established the Everhart’s American Folk Art and African Art collections, and has resulted in the Museum’s continued collecting of these types of works.
The Everhart’s collection grew exponentially throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The Everhart continued to expand on established areas of its collections such as American Folk Art and Classical paintings. Additionally during these decades the Everhart accepted countless donations that were shepherded through the friends and patrons of Julius Carlebach. These donations included the Museum’s first substantial pieces of Mediterranean, Egyptian, and South American Art.
Throughout the Museum’s history, the Everhart has maintained a goal of highlighting artwork featuring the distinctive imagery of Northeastern Pennsylvania. During the 1970s, the Everhart accepted artwork depicting the coal industry by a number of artists. One of the most notable new acquisitions was artwork by Frederic Knight, a Philadelphia-born and Scranton-raised artist. During this period the Museum broadened its collecting interests to include conceptual and contemporary artworks.
In the 1980s, the Museum continued the tradition of collecting artworks from regional artists and cultures from around the world and established a collection of Oceanic material. Although the Everhart had received its first piece of Oceanic Art in the 1940s from the collection of John Law Robertson, it was not until the 1980s that the Museum would purchase a collection of material from Papua New Guinea.
The Museum continued collecting artwork that had a connection to the region’s history and its citizens in the 1990s. It was also during this time that the Museum made a major shift towards fully embracing the international art market.