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Finishing Touches

As we rapidly near the opening of the new Harvard Art Museums, major milestones are piling up (or flying by, as many busy staffers might say).

Last week, the Collections Management team reported that it had installed all but 24 of 2,400 objects in the museums’ galleries and public spaces—in other words, over 99 percent of the art is in place. This accomplishment was more than nine months in the making; the team began tackling installation in early February.

“My staff and I are still so deep into the process—getting all the art in the galleries and then installing all the supporting processes, like lighting, security systems, touch-ups, and more—that we are just starting to realize the magnitude of what’s been done,” said Karen Gausch, exhibitions production manager. “It has been a thrill to be part of the team that manages the collections and installs exhibitions.”

Alongside the objects’ installation has been the steady and careful placement of wall and case labels. Curatorial teams researched and composed these crucial texts over the course of several years, and worked closely with editors in the Communications Division to refine them. Becky Hunt, graphic designer/publications coordinator, collaborated with an outside typesetter to prepare and format the texts, but she also typeset hundreds herself. She worked with editors to manage the corrections to the proofs, before sending final texts out for production.

Each label was printed as a “dry-rub transfer,” a decal-like material that’s affixed directly to the wall. The transfer makes the text appear seamlessly attached to the surface—a notable change from the previous placard-style labels, which jutted out from the wall.

Extra attention has also been devoted to the building’s exterior. The new glass roof, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, was cleaned daily throughout October by workers from the general contractor firm Fidelis. It was the first full-scale scrubbing since Fall 2013, and it involved “much more than squeegees on the windows,” said Peter Atkinson, the museums’ director of facilities planning and management. The workers cleaned the roof’s shades, hardware, and steel frames, as well as the building’s glass walls and windows.

Not far below the striking, sparkling glass roof, on the Prescott Street side of the building, a large banner announces the inaugural special exhibition Mark Rothko’s Harvard Murals. Additional banners with information about visitor services, exhibitions, collections, and special programming are also now on display on both Quincy Street and Broadway.

These exterior signs incorporate the museums’ new “art first” aesthetic. The hanging displays are “probably one of the most externally visible projects, from a brand touchpoint perspective” that has been completed recently, said Steven Waldron, the museums’ creative director. And they represent yet another important juncture along the way toward our public opening. “They’re like the last pieces of clothing that go on the building,” Waldron said.

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