At 9:00am on Wednesday June 7, 1916, the "building and its contents were thrown open to the general public" (Inaugural catalog). The first visitors to the museum were greeted with an exhibition of objects loaned from private collections, museums and dealers from all over the country which filled every gallery.
Collecting for the new Cleveland Museum of Art started immediately upon incorporation. Objects were donated beginning in 1914, with a collection of laces from Jeptha Homer Wade II. Objects were also purchased from dealers and through agents worldwide, but the collection was still small. In addition to borrowing art to fill the museum, the Inaugural Exhibition also served as a wish list of objects the museum wanted. Art dealers loaned many objects to the exhibition which were for sale and were, "secured in the hope that friends might be interested to acquire them as gifts to the museum" (Inaugural catalog).
The main floor galleries were installed by collection, time period or nationality. Many of the galleries retained these designations when objects from the permanent collection were installed.
The Inaugural Exhibition was on view from June 6 to September 20, 1916. By the closing of the exhibition, 191,547 visitors had come to the new museum to view the exhibition, with nearly 9,000 visitors on the last day alone (First 50 Years).