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Three’s A Trend, They Always Say

The Baltimore Museum of Art just announced that it will become the third museum to reopen “historic” doors that had been shut in favor of newer entrances — it’s a trend I applaud.

BMA_rendering-Merrick_Entry-ZS CAP (2)BMA joins the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where several years ago Malcolm Rogers renovated and reopened both of the MFA’s grand entrances, Huntington Avenue on the Avenue of the Arts and the Fenway Entrance, and Matthias Waschek, who in 2012 reopened the history Salisbury doors, which had closed for the several years except for weekends and special events. In the later two cases, the motivation for closing was primarily cost-cutting, I’ve been told. When I asked the BMA why it had closed its Merrick Entrance 30 years ago, I got this reply:

Prior to the opening of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s East Wing in 1982, the Merrick Entrance was the main entrance. It is a historic space that at that time lacked climate control, wiring for additional electrical outlets, and other basic features. Like many museums at that time, the BMA added the East Wing with more modern amenities for visitors such as an expanded shop, auditorium, restaurant, and circular driveway. The lack of climate control in the Merrick Entrance was problematic for the artworks in the American Wing and the museum decided to focus its resources on the entrance that was more convenient for visitors.

BMA_rendering-Fox_Court-ZS CAP (2)Next year, the BMA is celebrating its 100th anniversary with, among other things, the reopening. As the director, Doreen Bolger, said in the press release:

The reopening of the BMA’s historic Merrick Entrance and the Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing will be an extraordinary moment in the museum’s distinguished history—bringing together museum-goers of all ages to experience John Russell Pope’s first vision of a great public art museum.

Though none of the three mentioned it, there’s another dynamic in the museum world that I’ve disagreed with in the past and which has relevance here — some people state that young people find Beaux Arts and other traditional museum architecture to be “intimidating” (see here, for example). There three museums obviously can see through that hoary excuse.

And as these renderings of the Merrick entrance at the BMA show, these old entrances are often stunning.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the BMA




  1. Congratulations to Baltimore! For the record, VMFA reopened its front doors in 2010. Opened in 1936, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was on a less busy thoroughfare than Richmond’s Boulevard is today, so parking was not an issue. Later VMFA directed visitors, most of whom arrived in their cars, to an entrance adjacent to the surface parking lot with a more convenient entrance in that location.

    The surrounding neighborhood is filled with 19th and early 20th century mansions, grand apartment buildings and beautiful old homes. Happily, the entire neighborhood has undergone a wonderful renaissance. VMFA is a centerpiece in the newly named “Museum District,” full of pedestrians and bicycle traffic, and three blocks from a vibrant urban shopping district. 2010 is also when VMFA announced that it would be open 365 days a year with general admission always free. To our knowledge, VMFA is the only art museum which is open 365 days a year. And now the old surface parking lot is a 3 1/2 acre sculpture garden.

  2. Perhaps, one day, the original entrances to New York’s Morgan Library [ ] [click on image] and Boston’s Gardner Museum [ ] / close-up: [ ]? One can hope.

    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

  3. Traditionalist says:

    I absolutely agree that traditional museum architecture represents laudable aspiration and should be celebrated, not derided! Isn’t it a shame that the Brooklyn Museum didn’t follow through with its initial idea to restore its grand staircase a decade ago–instead, the institution changed course midstream and squandered funds on the present hideous exterior postmodern “stairs to nowhere”, maintaining the basement entrance despite great expense (something like $65 million?) !

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