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Muscarelle director unveils details of museum expansion

  • Building with central entryway and wings on each side
    Renovation and expansion:  An architect's rendering of the design for the newly expanded and renovated Muscarelle Musem of Art at The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts at William & Mary.  Courtesy of Pelli Clarke & Partners
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David Brashear, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at William & Mary, will present design details and project dates for the facility’s expansion and renovation as The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts during an information session at the museum next week.

The details come amid the continued growth of the museum’s collection, expanded outreach into the academic world at the university and numerous partnerships being formed to use the museum as a learning laboratory for students.

The multimillion-dollar, privately-funded facility was designed by world-renowned architects Pelli Clarke & Partners. Design Principal William Butler will join Brashear for the presentation, scheduled for 6 p.m. Dec. 7 in the museum’s Sheridan Gallery.

Brashear said that groundbreaking on the project will happen in late 2022, and the new facility is expected to open in 2024, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of its original opening.

An architect’s rendering and video with a simulated tour provides details of the plans for the interior spaces.

The facility will feature a three-story addition with two above-ground levels and a lower level built to the west of the existing building. It will have galleries on the second floor, meeting spaces and seminar rooms on the first floor, and staff offices and mechanical capabilities on the new lower level.

“We will have a central atrium that runs along an axis between the existing building and the new wing.  The atrium will be our new entrance, and will allow access from both the Jamestown Road side of the museum and the campus side near Jones Hall,” Brashear said.

A courtyard on the campus side will be in place of what is now the rear of the building.

“Along the path students travel between Swem Library and Boswell Hall, we will now have a doorway that invites them in to experience the museum,” Brashear said.

{{youtube:medium:right|U_8Fv4esQGk, The Curatorial Project 2021}}

The spacious lobby and atrium area will be used for events, as well as for greeting those coming to visit, study or work in the museum. A staircase goes up to the second floor, which will house gallery space as it does in the existing building.

Two sky bridge walkways will cross the atrium and connect the existing second floor galleries to the new galleries.

“We haven’t decided exactly the configuration of the new gallery spaces on the second floor of the new expanded wing,” Brashear said. “It’s one of the last design items that we need to finalize.”

In addition to welcoming students in from the campus side of the building, the interior will contain many facilities to enable them to study objects in the museum’s collection.

Off one of the main hallways from the front entry atrium is a new auditorium/event hall/lecture space that is designed to be flexible.

“We’ll also have a series of rooms dedicated to students and the academic enterprise of the university,” Brashear said.

Those include a library or study space that is partitionable into two smaller rooms, a larger seminar room that will hold roughly 20 to 25 students and a small seminar room and works on paper study room. Works on paper storage will be moved to the first floor of the new wing to be accessible for longer-term study.

“We’re looking forward to these learning spaces being incorporated into the museum and they really were one of the key things that our primary donor Martha Wren Briggs wanted to get out of the new and expanded museum,” Brashear said.

“And our event hall will be a game-changer for us.  We host a lot of lectures and special events at the museum.  Today that requires us to arrange chairs and tables in our main gallery downstairs and put our speaker at one end of the gallery.  The new event hall will allow us to better separate exhibitions and events, and keep our exhibitions accessible during special programs.”