The Memorial Art Gallery was founded in 1913 by Emily Sibley Watson, the daughter of industrialist Henry Watson. Emily was fond of the arts and decided to establish the museum in honor of her son and architect James Averell. The museum contains 12,000 works of art that span 5,000 years, from ancient Egypt to the present day. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum hosts traveling exhibits, lectures, concerts, an annual arts and crafts festival, and other events.
The museum has expanded in 1926, 1968, 1986, and in 2011 the Centennial Sculpture Park was created to showcase public art.