Afternoon with the Director

June 11, 2013
Director Tom Lentz presents the plan for the new Harvard Art Museums facility. Photo: Tom Fitzsimmons.

On a recent hot summer day, members of the Harvard Art Museums gathered at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum lecture hall for more than the air conditioning. The special event, held on June 1, featured a presentation by Director Tom Lentz of the plans for the new Harvard Art Museums facility and the progress of the construction across the street. It is just one of the many member programs planned for the coming year and leading up to the opening, in fall 2014.

Tom showed members how the building project came together, offering them a rare peek at some of the initial design and concept phases with architect Renzo Piano. Transparency was a running theme: he described both physical characteristics of the new facility as well as our mission to provide many modes of access to our collections and to the expertise of our staff. He provided a complete walkthrough of the floor plans, which include art study centers for close-looking at objects, an education space for experimenting with materials, and a digital media gallery that offers views into our conservation lab.

Next, Peter Atkinson, Director of Facilities Planning and Management, presented the progress of the project from when we closed the historic building in 2008 through where we stand today. He then treated the audience to a virtual tour of the construction site from the top floor down. As he shared photos of galleries taking shape, he noted how the project began as a building project and now, as we add the final details, we are seeing it become a museum project, with its own sets of concerns. “While we have accomplished a lot in the last five years, it’s often the final push that is the most complex and challenging,” he concluded.

It’s no coincidence that the event was held on the day the current Sackler galleries closed in order for us to complete the final phases of the renovation and expansion project that will unite the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler museums. As members walked out of the Sackler Museum to a reception at the nearby Adolphus Busch Hall and Garden, they bid their final farewells and looked toward the future.