The academic institution for which the Museum is named was founded in 1886 as the first degree-granting coordinate college for women in America. The H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College was distinguished for educating women in the sciences, physical education, and, most importantly, art education. Out of its famed arts program, the Newcomb Pottery was born. In operation from 1895 until 1940, the Newcomb enterprise produced metalwork, fiber arts, and the now internationally renowned Newcomb pottery.
As an entity of an academic institution, the Newcomb Art Museum presents exhibitions that utilize the critical frameworks of diverse disciplines in conceptualizing and interpreting art and design. By presenting issues relevant to Tulane and the greater New Orleans region, the Museum also serves as a gateway between on and off campus constituencies.