The structures in the gardens at Morris Arboretum span the centuries. The Morrises not only designed many features themselves, but also employed the finest local architects of their time. The knowledge that their garden is now on the National Register of Historic Places would have pleased John and Lydia, who were active in historic preservation. The Arboretum has also won recent recognition as one of the nation's best-designed public landscapes.
John and Lydia Morris, who founded the Morris Arboretum, introduced fine arts into their Victorian estate landscape. Sculpture, landscape design and architecture were brought together in harmony with educational and scientific pursuits.
This concept was rekindled in the 1970s in an ongoing effort to create a visual and cultural counterpoint to the Arboretum's scientific mission.
In 1983, the Advisory Board of Managers unanimously adopted a resolution recommending "the acquisition, display and interpretation of a fine arts collection be developed as an integral part of the Arboretum's landscape design and living collection."
The primary goal at Morris Arboretum is to develop very fine gardens and to make sure that art is a part of those gardens. Garden design is a fine art and sculpture is a part of that fine art. The landscape and the art should complement one another. The biggest challenge is to incorporate contemporary art into what is essentially a Victorian landscaped garden in a way that doesn't clash with the surroundings.
Interpretations for selected works were written by Judith E. Stein, Ph.D, a Philadelphia-based curator and critic.