A Window into the Naumburg Room

September 24, 2014
Angela Chang, assistant director and conservator of objects and sculpture, seals light leaks in the stained-glass windows in the Naumburg Room in the Harvard Art Museums.

In the early 20th century, Aaron and Nettie G. Naumburg had a penthouse apartment at New York’s Hotel des Artistes. But in 1932, after Nettie bequeathed her common room and all of its contents to the Fogg Museum, it was moved to a custom-built wing at the museum in Cambridge. When the Harvard Art Museums’ renovation and expansion project began in 2008, the room moved yet again; about 10,000 individual pieces of the Naumburg Room were documented, packed up, and placed in storage.

Almost all of these pieces have now been reassembled in the new museums. With the recent reinstallation of the room’s stained-glass windows—one of the final steps in the incredible effort to move this room from its former setting—the Naumburg Room is once again ready to enchant students, faculty, staff, and other special guests who will visit the space.

The room’s recent move gave the museums an opportunity to refresh the windows. Stephan Wolohojian, the Landon and Lavinia Clay Curator, worked with stained-glass conservator Mary Clerkin Higgins to repair and renew the historic windows so that they can shine again when placed into the window frames. Museums staff has designed special light wells that enhance the presentation of the stained glass as well.

Now, when visitors step into the two-story Jacobean hall, the room appears almost exactly as it did on the Upper West Side during the Prohibition era (complete with covert cabinets). Discreet modernizations have been added, however, such as climate control and audiovisual equipment.

In keeping with the terms of Nettie Naumburg’s bequest, her beloved living room will continue to be used as a gathering place where museums staff, faculty and students, and other guests can come together to discuss ideas that spring from experiencing and contemplating original works of art. The Naumburg Room will be a venue for special events featuring visiting scholars, artists, and other notable figures. Faculty receptions, alumni gatherings, and Harvard College House Teas will also be hosted in this space.

  • Takuji Hamanaka, who works with stained-glass conservator Mary Clerkin Higgins, mounts stained-glass panels into one of the windows in the Naumburg Room.
    of Takuji Hamanaka, who works with stained-glass conservator Mary Clerkin Higgins, mounts stained-glass panels into one of the windows in the Naumburg Room.
  • The recently reinstalled stained-glass windows in the Naumburg Room.
    of The recently reinstalled stained-glass windows in the Naumburg Room.