The Dowse Art Museum has a significant public art collection with over 3,500 items. It is best known for New Zealand studio craft with one of the largest collections of this type in Aotearoa.
It was the establishment of the collection during the 1970s that put The Dowse on the road to becoming a nationally significant cultural centre.
The collection was begun by The Hutt Art Society with a gift of 70 paintings. These paintings remain the foundation of the collection. Millar added New Zealand ceramics, textiles, weaving and paintings to the collection. With London’s Victoria and Albert Museum collection in mind, Millar purchased The Dowse’s first ceramic item, Mirek Smisek’s Salt Glazed Branch Pot, in 1972.
The Friends of The Dowse was formed in 1972 and its members have been a valuable support to the institution ever since. The Friends have been influential in purchasing and commissioning work for the collection including Toss Woollaston’s Port Nicholson from Korokoro.
To this day The Dowse continues to add to its collection with recent acquisitions revealing a contemporary focus that highlights key developments in New Zealand art, by artists of significance.