The decorative arts collection reflects changes in domestic life and design from the seventeenth century to the present. Included are materials ranging from furniture, silver, glass, and ceramics to period rooms and textiles. Although the collections include some European material, their greatest strength is in American objects.
The earliest pieces of decorative art to enter the collection were silver spoons that came to the Museum in 1902; these were followed the next year by a number of pieces of European porcelain. With the arrival of Luke Vincent Lockwood, a noted collector and scholar, in 1914, the focus of the collections shifted from Europe to America. In 1915, the Museum acquired its first period room; although there are twenty-six period rooms installed in the Museum, due to ongoing construction only five that date from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth century are currently on view. During the 1930s, the Museum began actively exhibiting modern design, focusing on design's relationship to industry.