de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

de Saisset Museum History

Founded 1955

Exterior of de Saisset Museum

Upon her death in 1950, Isabel de Saisset bequeathed to Santa Clara University (formerly Santa Clara College) parcels of real estate located at the northwest corner of Market and Post Streets and the northeast corner of San Pedro and Post Streets in the city of San Jose. She donated the property for the purpose of enabling Santa Clara University to raise funds to build a museum on the campus. The architectural style of the building was to conform to the other buildings on campus and bear the family name. Isabel de Saisset also bequeathed some of her household and personal items, including jewelry and silver, as well as her entire collection of paintings. These were formerly located in her home on Market Street in San Jose and they were painted by her deceased brother Ernest de Saisset, a Santa Clara College student between 1884 and 1899.

The de Saisset Art Gallery and Museum opened in 1955 and exhibited the de Saisset paintings and artifacts as well as Santa Clara Mission artifacts from the Galtes Museum, formerly housed in the basement of O'Connor Hall. Over time, the museum came to be known as the de Saisset Museum and acquired more Santa Clara Valley artifacts and works of art from many periods and cultures. The de Saisset came to be known for its temporary exhibitions of new art and under-represented artists such as the period in the 1970s when it was one of the few museums actively seeking to exhibit and collect video art. The Museum has also had a focus on exhibitions that explore social issues through art, reflecting Santa Clara University's commitment to social justice. Today, the collection has grown to include more than 11,000 objects.

Photograph courtesy of Chuck Barry, 2012.