First Impressions

December 18, 2013
The new Harvard Art Museums facility. Photo: Peter Vanderwarker.

This time next year, our student guides will be leading tours of the Harvard Art Museums new facility. We recently took this group of Harvard College undergraduates inside our facility to help them prepare for these tours. For many of the students, it was their first time visiting the museums.

We asked the guides to reflect on the experience, and here is what Sarah Rosenthal (Class of 2015) had to say about this experience.

When viewing the empty facility, the most striking thing I noticed is the diversity of spaces and the way that those spaces all have hybrid or transformative identities. The gallery spaces vary from expansive to intimate; the Naumburg Room transplants the old into the new; the [Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies] conservation lab makes science an obvious component of the museums; lecture halls create gathering points; glass-walled Winter Gardens let visitors interact with the outside while staying within the contemplative haven of the museums. Many museums, especially of this size, seem to present relatively uniform gallery spaces or perhaps don't make their multitude of functions as apparent, transparent, and interactive as the new Harvard Art Museums do. Seeing a building that will foster not only the viewing of art, but also various modes of interacting with, meditating on, and discussing the objects within it, and that makes the simultaneity of those functions clear, is very exciting . . .I see that, in addition to being a fascinating and attractive building, the Harvard Art Museums are actively working as a powerful resource that will be incorporated into the larger world of Harvard.