Supporting a ‘Gem of a Museum’

Smith and Scarlett posing together in a garden.

North Carolina native Smith Freeman `68, `72 (JD) began collecting ancient Chinese ceramics in the 1980s and has since sought out and purchased almost 40 pieces dating from the Zhou dynasty (1046 – 256 BCE) to the Yuan (1271 – 1368 CE).

When Freeman and his husband considered moving, Freeman began reaching out to art museums in North Carolina with the goal of donating his collection to his home state. When he found out his alma mater holds the largest Asian collection in North Carolina and one of the most important in the southeast United States, he donated almost his entire collection to the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill. 

“I grew up in a small town and would never have seen these objects had I not left North Carolina,” said Freeman. “Once I learned the Ackland was the best repository for my collection, I appreciated that people — particularly students — would be able to see it. Seeing these pieces up-close is not the same as looking at a picture on a page or a slide in an art history class.”

Since his donation, Freeman’s involvement with the Ackland has expanded, and he describes it as “a gem of a museum.”

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