Library Relocation Project

View of the reading room in the new Museum library

Transforming an art research library

In January 2022 the Worcester Art Museum began construction on a new home for its art research library, the most important collection of this material in Central Massachusetts and a valuable resource for scholars, regional faculty, students, artists, docents, Museum staff, and the public alike. The new library occupies a two-level, 3,400 square foot space in the Higgins Education Wing, and includes improved access and amenities for visitors, flexible space to support an array of programming opportunities, and greatly enhanced and more functional storage space for the library’s collections. Construction was completed in early 2023, with a project budget of $2.1 million.

The library’s main level features a versatile reading room space with double the capacity of the previous space. In addition to a mix of tables and seating, this space is designed to be easily converted into different configurations to host small programs. The main level also provides easy access to a selection of the recently published books and periodicals from the library’s collection and provides new offices for library staff.

The new library during construction
The new library during construction.
Second-floor view of the new library during construction
Second-floor view of the new library during construction.

The library’s lower level houses the majority of the collection in archive-appropriate steel compact shelving, providing safer and more durable storage for historical items. While access to this storage area is limited to library staff, the online catalogue makes it easy for people to identify the materials they need. Library staff will also provide orientation sessions for users to support this process.

The library was created in 1909, only a decade after the Museum opened, underscoring the importance for people to have access to scholarly materials about artists and exhibitions. While art making and art presentation have changed significantly in the subsequent century, the need for reliable sources of information remains essential. This transformative investment in the Museum’s library ensures its ability to serve staff, docents, researchers, students, and the wider community for decades to come.

Construction Manager: Kaplan Construction
Architect: Fieldworkshop
Structural Engineer: Caputo & Wick
Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Seaman Engineering
Electrical Engineer: Shepherd Engineering
Envelope Consultant: David Fannon
Fire Protection: Technical Solutions Associates
OPM: Conform Lab