Campus News

Bowdoin College Museum of Art: Where Tradition Meets Innovation

The Bowdoin Campaign

Story posted October 01, 2007

It's a new beginning for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. A creative renovation and expansion of the historic McKim, Mead and White building has ushered in a new era of accessibility and exploration.

Opening to the public on October 14, 2007, the Museum's most visible changes include modern architectural details that complement the building's historical features and invite the campus and the community to explore the more than 15,000 objects spanning the ancient world through the 21st century.


New architectural elements include the Museum's new entry pavilion — a dramatic glass and bronze structure housing a glass elevator and "floating" steel staircase — and a new, town-facing building addition, featuring an expansive glass curtain wall behind which the Museum displays its celebrated Assyrian reliefs.


A Grand Reopening

The Museum reopens to the public on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007, with events beginning at 1 p.m.

  • Barry Mills, President of Bowdoin College
  • John Baldacci, Governor of Maine
  • Alden Wilson, Director of the Maine Arts Commission

Ribbon Cutting

President Mills, Gov. Baldacci and Mr. Wilson will be joined by:

  • Joanne King, Chairwoman of the Brunswick Town Council
  • Earle Shettleworth Jr., Director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission
  • Linda Roth, Member of the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees

Museum is open to the public from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum staff will conduct tours at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Activities for children include word games and a scavenger hunt through the Museum.

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Lowering the foundation required hundreds of pits that were dug by hand then filled with concrete

Soaring Higher, Digging Deeper

Diamonds are a Museum worker's best friend
Bling Blade: A diamond-encrusted wire saw cuts through the Museum's foundation

If workers can rebuild an entire foundation without disrupting the historic building upon which it sits, how difficult could it be to cut through thick granite walls? The answer is in having the right accessory; in this case, a diamond-encrusted saw.

Workers used a saw embedded with industrial diamonds ($180 a foot!) to cut openings in granite walls that were as many as five feet thick in order to create sixteen openings for doors, corridors and mechanical systems in the Museum's basement.

In 2003, Bowdoin College embarked on the renovation and expansion to preserve and protect the 100-year-old Walker Art Building, expand galleries and other program spaces, and improve storage facilities and HVAC systems.

The restored and expanded Museum retains the building's iconic features while upgrading its climate control and mechanical systems to become a state-of-the-art facility capable of organizing and presenting exhibitions on a national scale. An underground expansion provides 63 percent more space than the original building while preserving the landmark structure, and increases the number of galleries from nine to fourteen.

To accomplish this feat, the Museum had to sink to a new low. Construction crews were charged with lowering the foundation four feet. To do that without rebuilding the entire Museum took careful planning, a lot of patience and brute strength.

In a systematic process that took ten weeks, workers hand dug four-foot-wide pits in the original foundation, which were then filled with reinforced concrete. The painstaking process was repeated four hundred times as the foundation was rebuilt one chunk at a time, resulting in stronger footings and a higher ceiling for what doesn't feel like a basement anymore. Reflecting on the arduous process, Dave Onos of Consigli Construction commented, "This is definitely one of kind."

Visual Culture

In conjunction with the Museum's reopening, Bowdoin faculty are presenting "Visual Culture in the 21st Century," a yearlong program of cross-disciplinary courses, public talks and performances, and departmental events exploring the vitality and importance of the visual arts.

Read more about "Visual Culture in the 21st Century" and view a schedule of events.

A new course, Art and Life, is taught in the Museum's new Zuckert Seminar Room

Inaugural exhibitions

Modern Times: Alumni Collect
Seven Bowdoin alumni and alumnae, representing classes from 1937 to 2000, are sharing works from their collections of recent art. Works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Betye Saar, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, and Kiki Smith included. Bernard and Barbro Osher Gallery. (Through March 7, 2008)

Great Graphics: 1470-1970
Highlights more than sixty works on paper from the Museum's renowned holdings of prints and drawings. Curated by esteemed print collector, scholar, and Bowdoin alumnus David Becker '70, this show will feature a comprehensive display that unites Rembrandt and Picasso, Rubens and Homer, Dürer and Cassatt, and Goya and Klee. Halford Gallery. (Through March 7, 2008)

Museum of Art Renovation Project

The Walker Art Building renovation is among the top-priority building projects of The Bowdoin Campaign, which ends in 2009. These projects will have a dramatic impact on student life, reflecting the needs and interests of our diverse and talented student body.

Transformations: Traditional and Contemporary Chinese Art in Dialogue
Highlights the rich traditions of Asian art. Juxtaposes ancient Chinese scrolls and prints with contemporary Chinese photography, prints, and mixed media works that reference historic subjects and compositions. Center Gallery. (Through February 1, 2008)

Becoming a (Woman) Artist
Organized in conjunction with Art History 256, this exhibition explores the gendered effects of new opportunities and challenges for women artists. Becker Gallery. (Through November 25, 2007)

89 Seconds at Alcázar
Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation's 89 Seconds at Alcázar launches the new Media Gallery, which will be devoted to video and digital art. Artist Eve Sussman imaginatively "captures" the moments leading up to and immediately following the dynamic moment of artistic conception in Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas. Media Gallery. (Through January 6, 2008)

Stephen Hannock
In the only solo exhibition of the reopening program, artist and 1974 alumnus Stephen Hannock's gift of a large painting conceived for the Museum of Art will be accompanied by other small works. Focus Gallery. (Through January 13, 2008)

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View from Shaw Ruddock Gallery into Boyd Gallery

The American Scene - Part I
Includes work by Gilbert Stuart, John Smibert, Robert Feke, John Quidor, and Winslow Homer. Reintroduces the distinguished and remarkably rich selection of early American work that comprises the permanent collection. Boyd Gallery. (Through January 2008)

The Walker Sisters and Collecting in Victorian Boston
In the first Luce Foundation-funded reinterpretation of the American collection, this exhibition honors the Bowdoin College Museum of Art's founders with an installation of compelling, diverse, and sometimes unexpected art. Shaw Ruddock Gallery. (Through August 24, 2008)

Ars Antiqua: Ancient Pastimes and Passions
Explores the nature of ancient life and its reflections in the art of the ancient world. Walker Gallery. (Long-term installation)

Ancient Art: Immortal Dreams
In accompaniment to Ars Antiqua: Ancient Pastimes and Passions, this exhibition will thematically explore the notion of "life after death" as it existed in ancient cultures. Northend Gallery. (Long-term installation)

Seeing and Believing: 600 Years in Europe
A selective survey of some of Bowdoin's most important works of European art, from a Gothic carved head of a king from Chartres Cathedral to an early-twentieth-century cubist landscape that was included in the 1913 Armory Show. Bowdoin Gallery. (Long-term installation)

The Human Figure - 2500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.
Returns the handsome domed and decorated Rotunda to its original designation as a sculpture hall. Rotunda. (Long-term installation)

Palace Reliefs from Kalhu (Nimrud)
The Assyrian relief sculptures in this exhibition are some of the most extraordinary pieces in the Bowdoin collection. Carved at the behest of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II in the ninth century BCE, these stone panels once decorated the walls of the royal palace in the king's new capital at ancient Kalhu. The reliefs were finished with an overlay of cuneiform listing the king's accomplishments. Assyrian Gallery. (Long-term installation)

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Assyrian relief, detail

For images and detailed information about these exhibitions, visit the Museum's exhibitions Web page.

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