Housed in the Freer Gallery of Art, the Freer Study Collection consists of objects that are kept in the study rooms and are used for laboratory analysis, technical studies, and comparative materials by visiting scholars, students, and National Museum of Asian Art staff. The study collection was established in 1923 to receive a group of objects purchased by archaeologist Carl Whiting Bishop while he was on an expedition in China. It has since grown to include fragments of ancient Chinese ceremonial bronzes and Japanese woodblock prints.
In addition, the study collection has acquired mostly sherds of pottery and porcelain from known find-sites and kiln sites, including:
- hundreds of sherds from kiln sites in Thailand
- sherds of Vietnamese ceramics collected in Indonesia and Cambodia
- Chinese porcelain sherds from known find-sites around the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to the coast of Africa
- a comprehensive collection of sherds from Japanese kiln sites
- sherds collected at the site of Fostat, in old Cairo
Study collection objects are not exhibited in the Freer Gallery, but they may be displayed in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and lent to other institutions for study or exhibition.