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Sackler Museum's Future Uncertain After Fogg Renovation

Former Director of the Fogg Museum Seymour Slive shows a variety of concept sketches in the early planning stages of the Sackler Museum.
Former Director of the Fogg Museum Seymour Slive shows a variety of concept sketches in the early planning stages of the Sackler Museum.
By Laura G. Mirviss and Evan T.R. Rosenman, Crimson Staff Writers

The Arthur M. Sackler Museum faces an uncertain future as renovations of the Fogg Art Museum near completion, slated for late 2013.

The Sackler’s art collections will move into the renovated facilities at 32 Quincy Street—which will now be known as the Harvard Art Museum—along with the collections of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, according to an emailed statement from Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal.

“The University is currently engaged in a collaborative process involving the art museums, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the central administration to ensure that the building continues to be dedicated to the arts,” Neal wrote. He did not address whether the Sackler building will continue to serve as a display space.

A number of professors in the Department of History of Art and Architecture—housed in the Sackler building—speculated that the University will not continue to use the Sackler for exhibiting art.

HAA Professor Henri Zerner said that he believes that the Sackler will continue to house the department’s administrative offices and—if funds permit—the Fine Arts Library. During the Fogg renovation, the Fine Arts Library has occupied a space in Littauer, a building primarily used by the Economics department.

Zerner went on to say that housing both the HAA offices and the library in the Sackler would be the “best use” of the building.

“I don’t have any strong sentimental attachment to buildings,” Zerner said of the Sackler’s potential repurposing. “I think the new arrangement will be better.”

Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts James S. Ackerman said that if Harvard can afford it, it would be useful to house the department and library in the same building.

“They’ve been talking about moving the library back where the [Sackler] galleries are,” Ackerman said. “If they are penny pinching, they might not be able to afford it. On the other hand, the Department of Economics desperately wants to get rid of our library—that is going to be the issue of the future.”

“They don’t want the library there, we don’t want the library there. But how do you convert a structure to contain many tons of books? The floors were built for galleries, not the load that a library would bring to it,” he added.

Professor Emeritus of Asian Art and former acting director of the Fogg John M. Rosenfield, however, said that without any concrete plans for the future of the Sackler, it is hard to make judgements about how the building should be repurposed.

“Nobody has told me anything concrete or specific about it. You hear rumors about it, but I don’t know how much substance there is to it,” Rosenfield said.

Rosenfield said the future of the Sackler is largely dependent on the success of the Fogg renovations.

“The Fogg will be our new place of operation, our new laboratory so to speak, and we will have to see how well it actually functions,” Rosenfield said.

Former director of the Fogg Seymour Slive—who largely spearheaded the creation of the Sackler, which opened in 1985—said that while he is uninvolved in the current decision-making process, he hopes that the Sackler can continue to serve as a display space for art.

“It’s very sad to me to think of it no longer being a museum,” he said. “But who knows, the new Fogg may not be large enough, and [maybe] they’ll use it again.”

—Staff writer Laura G. Mirviss can be reached at lmirviss@fas.harvard.edu.    —Staff writer Evan T. R. Rosenman can be reached at can be reached at erosen@fas.harvard.edu.

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