In 1921, following the sudden death of her husband, Murray, a constant companion and fellow lover of Asian art, Gertrude Bass Warner settled in Eugene, Oregon, to live near her son, UO Law Professor Sam Warner. By 1922, she had truly made a name for herself and her collection. According to Ellie Orr, devoted docent at the JSMA and Warner biographer and enthusiast, Warner was the primary driving force behind the establishment of the museum and collection we see today. A buzz of interest seems to have moved through the community. The Oregonian ran a story, January 29, 1922, explaining how the “quiet, unpretentious little woman” had “slipped into Eugene” and opened up her home (located on 668 East Thirteenth Street) to UO regents, letting them wander “through the front door of the Warner home to an interior as rich and brilliant as an oriental bazaar.” Apparently, they marveled at the “forest of coat costumes embroidered and woven in the untarnishable gold and silver, blues, reds, and other imitable colors of the older Chinese art (Orr, 2015, 19-20).” Warner truly created a place for the study of Asian art in Eugene. In fact, by tracking personal correspondence, newspaper articles, and Warner’s notes in “Remarkable Gerturde!,” Orr demonstrates the legion occasions when Warner sought out innovative curatorial techniques and led the way for future museum educators to come.

Thanks to Warner’s indefatigable interest in Asian art and education (and her wealth, of course), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) houses a wide-ranging collection of artwork readily viewable by enthusiast and budding enthusiasts. A guiding voice in the construction of the original University of Oregon Museum of Art, in the 1920s, Warner devoted the majority of her life to the curation and exhibition of Asian art for visiting specialists, university faculty and students, and the general public. It is truly a remarkable collection of artifacts! Warner hoped that the collection would be used to bridge cultural divides and educate minds on the fascinating history of the countries she studied and lived in, and the JSMA has long embraced her mission.

Daily, the JSMA welcomes prearranged guided tours for grades K through 12 tours each, in general, a 45-minute-long tour that includes a creative expose. The museum coordinates with prospective teachers and administrators on the particular themes, art forms, and area of interest or temporal focus, and teachers have access to a bevy of curricula plans and guides. The museum trains its docents and exhibit interpreters with attention to these very tours.

Warner’s collection of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese items are the general focus, and partnerships with the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS) and key UO department faculty have produced a wealth of fascinating exhibitions based largely on the Murray Warner Collection, but also featured donations and acquisitions. But the JSMA prides itself on an expansive art collection, and past topics have covered Latin American art and ethnicity, Western print culture, the US Northwest, and comic books. Many of the above exhibitions include useful educational components perfect for your classroom. The exiting lesson plans integrate Common Core scaffolding and seek valuable student learning outcomes, especially an appreciation for art, the creative process, and broadened cultural awareness. Most lesson plans stress Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), so that students are encouraged to explore and critique the dynamism of the artwork before them. And the JSMA’s recent pedagogy has sought Universal-Design strategies to meet more student learning needs and encourage learning opportunities.

Key features and opportunities for educators to be aware of include:

  • Regular Professional Development Workshops for teachers and administrators
  • Online resources and useful training guides for thought-provoking museum-student experience
  • Easily accessible and clear guided curriculum units available
  • Fun and engaging prepared Outreach Kits, perfect for tactile and experiential learning goals
  • Welcoming and responsive Museum Education outreach coordinator and staff
  • Informed and helpful museum staff
  • And consistent family and community programs and events to help encourage learning opportunities beyond the classroom

Please review the available materials online, or contact Lisa Abia-Smith, Director of Education (

Also, educators ought to take note that the JSMA offers Professional Development Workshops, currently held on the second Friday in October and occasionally throughout the academic year.

This is an informative VTS training session that give the viewer an idea of staff education:

For specific details on how the JSMA education programming and its curricula standards as well as how to access the many helpful lesson plans and guides for touring the museum, visit:

For information about the Jordan Schitzer Family Foundation, here.

Many thanks to Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Gosselin Orr. Be sure to check out her compassionate and sophisticated study, “Remarkable Gertrude!” 2015. Copies available through UO Libraries Special Collections & University Archives or directly from the author.

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