NERAM was built in 1983 specifically to house and exhibit the Howard Hinton Collection, an iconic collection of Australian Art from the period 1880 to 1948.
Funds for the construction of the building were raised by a concerted and long term fundraising effort by the Armidale community and matching grants provided by the NSW Government. NERAM was built on crown land, adjacent to the Armidale Teachers College, which was the original home of the Hinton Trust. The land was reserved from sale for the public purpose of a Museum by declaration of the Minister for Lands on 24 September 1982.
The building was extended in 1997 to increase its display areas and to include a café and artist studio.
Funds used to extend the museum came again from community fundraising. From his first conceptual drawings for NERAM’s Stage Two Development the architect, Colin Still, allowed for and indeed insisted that the outside of NERAM should be a space which needed artistic input.
Still created the terraces and arcs and employed materials which would provide a suitable “canvas” for public art (sculpture) to be commissioned in the future. He allowed space to create work that would sit comfortably or react/interact with the nature and physical structures that surrounds it.
Still’s philosophy was applied to all aspects of the building:the cafe and the artist studio were built not only to cater for people’s activities inside, but also to act as transition spaces where people see beyond the walls and move between inside and outside; the galleries are spaces which not only display works but create a mosaic of art beyond the glass and metal, on to the concrete and out into the open air, the natural grass and scattered trees.
At the time of construction, the New England Regional Art Museum Reserve Trust Board was established. This body managed the Museum and its operations until 2005 when Armidale Dumaresq Council was appointed Manager of the Reserve Trust by order of the Minister for Lands.
In June 2008, the Reserve Trust was renamed the Armidale Community Cultural Reserve Trust. The Council as Reserve Trust Manager continued to manage the Museum until 1 July 2008 when NERAM Limited, a new not-for-profit company Limited by Guarantee took office and commenced operation and management of the museum and the collections and artworks in its care.