Campus News

Art Museum Receives Prestigious NEH Grant

Story posted June 19, 2006

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has received a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for preservation of the Museum's collections.

The NEH's Preservation and Access stabilization grants assist cultural institutions in their efforts to preserve significant humanities collections by supporting improved housing and storage, environmental conditions, security, lighting, and fire protection.

The Walker Art Building, which houses the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, is currently undergoing an extensive $20 million renovation. The historic 1894 McKim, Mead and White-designed building has long been in need of an upgrade to the 19th-century interior environmental conditions and storage inadequacies, which have put the collections at risk, hindered the Museum's ability to borrow works from other museums or host touring exhibitions, and limited the collection's accessibility for research purposes.

The NEH grant will fund the acquisition of state-of-the-art climate-control and storage systems to meet 21st-century professional museum standards.

The funds will also cover the moving and reinstallation of five 9th-century B.C. Assyrian bas-reliefs (most recently located in the rotunda, they will be moved to a new gallery that offers a view inside from the street); improved security systems; and various costs associated with off-site storage of the collections during the renovation, and their transport and re-housing prior to the building's reopening.

"We were thrilled to learn of our success with this extremely competitive award, the second largest stabilization grant given by NEH this year," said Katy Kline, director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. "It's a confirmation of the high regard in which the Museum's collections are held, and an acknowledgement of the College's responsible stewardship."

The NEH received 63 applications for Preservation and Access stabilization grants during this cycle, and awarded just 11 at a total of $3.37 million.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art's collection includes more than 14,000 objects, and is one of the oldest collegiate art collections in the United States. With works from the ancient world to the present, it is widely considered the most comprehensive art collections in the State of Maine. The collection is valued at over $100 million and is particularly strong in American painting, Ancient Art of the Mediterranean world, and European Old Master drawings and prints.

The Museum's holdings are used to enhance teaching in a variety of disciplines, including art and art history, theater, languages, sociology, government, environmental studies, women's studies, classics, archaeology, religion, and history. The Museum is a widely used resource for art scholars from around the world, and is also a major attraction in southern Maine for tourists, area schoolchildren, and other local groups.

Renovation of the Walker Art Building began in May 2005. The project calls for the construction of a new detached entrance pavilion on the building's south side, construction of a rear addition, added gallery and exhibition space, handicap accessibility, and improved loading and receiving area, among other improvements. The renovation plan also preserves the landmark building's original fašade and grand staircase.

The renovation is expected to be completed by early 2007. The process of moving artwork back into the Museum -- which will take several months -- will begin in the spring of 2007. The building is expected to reopen in the fall of 2007.

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