The Santa Barbara Museum of Art opened to the public on June 5, 1941, in a building that was at one time the Santa Barbara Post Office (1914–1932). Chicago architect David Adler simplified the building's façade and created the Museum's galleries, most notably Ludington Court which offers a dramatic sense of arrival for museum visitors. The newly renovated Park Wing Entrance and Luria Activities Center open in June 2006.
Over its history the Museum has expanded with the addition of the Stanley R. McCormick Gallery in 1942 and the Sterling and Preston Morton Galleries in 1963. Significant expansions came when the Alice Keck Park Wing opened to the public in 1985 and the Jean and Austin H. Peck, Jr. Wing in 1998. The Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House, a center for art education activities, was established in 1991.
Today, the Museum's 60,000 square feet include exhibition galleries, a Museum Store, Cafe, a 154-seat auditorium, a library containing 50,000 books and 55,000 slides, a children's gallery dedicated to participatory interactive programming and an 11,500-square-foot off-site facility, the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House.
The Museum’s collection of the arts of Asia, Europe, and the Americas includes paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, ceramics, glass, jades, bronzes, lacquer, and textiles. The broad areas in which SBMA holds a significant number of works of exceptional quality include international antiquities from China, India, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Near East and 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century art from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Particular strengths of the collection are 19th- and 20th-century American and European art, contemporary American painting, photography, and the arts of Asia, especially China.