Dedicated in 1886, Slater Memorial Museum was founded by NFA alum, William Albert Slater (Class of 1875), Slater Memorial Museum stands as one of only two museum’s to be located on the campus of a high school in the United States.
The museum is named so in memory of the Slater family. In 1884, William Albert Slater, offered a gift of $160,000 to NFA to build the Slater Building in memory of his father John Fox Slater. Architect Stephen C. Earle of Worcester, Massachusetts was chosen to design the building in the Romanesque Revival style; objectively speaking, Slater Museum represents the finest architectural achievement of Earle's career. Originally conceived as an "Athenæum", the building aimed to uplift the mind, body, and spirit of all who entered its doors. Though the building ultimately became a museum setting, the original plan was to turn the main galleries of the building into a gymnasium.
In a radical departure from the gymnasium idea, NFA Head of School Dr. Robert Porter Keep shifted the conversation which settled on the concept of installing a body of artwork that became the museum's plaster cast collection. The collection was unveiled in November of 1888 along with the auditorium on the first level, and NFA's Peck Library formerly located in what is now the Dr. Lewis & Mrs. Grace Sears Gallery of the museum. Boston native Henry Watson Kent, was hired as the museum's first Curator and head Librarian from 1888 to 1900. Kent oversaw the management of the building but also kickstarted a regular rotating exhibition schedule to draw in the visiting public. Featured as the exhibition titled, “Casts of the Ancient World,” the museum’s collection of plaster casts represents one of the most complete and notable collections of plaster casts in the United States.
For over a century, the museum has remained true to its mission as an educational resource for NFA and its community. In 1907, the museum expanded with the opening of the Converse Art Gallery funded by benefactor Charles A. Converse. For generations, the gallery served as the home of the Norwich Art School and now stands as a space for rotating exhibitions. Since its founding, Slater Museum has grown to include a collection of over 10,000 pieces of art and objects from all over the globe.