In Partnership with College of the Holy Cross, Increasing Access to Most Important Art Research Collection in Central Massachusetts
Worcester, MA—February 22, 2023—The Worcester Art Museum (WAM) announced today that its art research library will reopen to the public, in its newly created space in the Museum’s Higgins Education Wing, on March 2. The project, for which construction began in early 2022, provides a two-level, 2,800 square foot space that increases the Museum’s capacity for collaboration and significantly enhances the Library’s amenities for visitors, with flexible areas to support an array of programming opportunities while creating more functional storage for its collections. At the same time, by moving the Library to the Higgins Education Wing—which is reachable via an elevator as well as through WAM’s Lancaster Plaza entrance—the Museum has greatly enhanced the accessibility and utility of the Library as a resource for Museum visitors of all ages, scholars, regional faculty, students, artists, docents, and Museum staff. Visiting the Library is free; the space will be open Thursdays-Saturdays, noon–4 pm.
Housing the most important collection of art history research material in Central Massachusetts, WAM collaborates with Worcester’s College of the Holy Cross to manage and maintain the Library’s collections. The Library also supports access to collection materials by the wider community through a national interlibrary loan system. The Museum’s Higgins Education Wing has been the site of collaboration throughout its history and the reimagined Library is one of many collaborative initiatives that the Museum maintains and continues to grow, including Open Door Gallery at the Worcester Art Museum. The new Library will enable the Museum to expand partnerships with organizations throughout the area.
“Holy Cross is proud to partner with the Worcester Art Museum to increase hands-on access to vital art historical resources,” said Holy Cross President Vincent D. Rougeau. “Art is crucial to how our students explore and conceptualize the world and their place within it. This transformed library will serve as an important piece of a vibrant liberal arts curriculum as well as a welcoming resource for our Worcester community as a whole.”
“On behalf of the Museum’s Library staff, let me say how excited I am to welcome visitors to this new space,” said Rebecca Morin, WAM’s Head Librarian. “It is hard to overstate how significant this change is for us, and for the many people we support who are conducting research on art, artists, and exhibitions. Accessibility has been a core principle of libraries everywhere, but this move into the Higgins Education Wing genuinely transforms access to our extensive collections. I want to thank WAM’s leadership, Board of Trustees, and donors, for their support for and commitment to this project—and thank our collaborators at College of the Holy Cross for their ongoing partnership.”
The completion of the Museum’s new Library space is just one of many capital investments that WAM has made in recent years, guided by its campus master plan, which was developed in collaboration with wHY Architecture. The Library in particular was a crucial project because the space it has now vacated will be the site of the Museum’s next major construction project: the creation of a new, 4,000 sq. ft. gallery to house the Worcester Art Museum’s collection of Arms and Armor, the second largest and among the most distinguished collections of its kind in the Americas.
“Over the last few years, we have been focused on addressing an array of essential infrastructure projects at the Museum,” said Matthias Waschek, the Jean and Myles McDonough Director of the Worcester Art Museum. “Creating a new space for our Library, which is an important art historical resource, is one part of that plan. Others include the renovation of our Lancaster Plaza entrance, with redesigned stairs and a newly added elevator. And I know that our community—and the team at the Museum—is eager for us to embark on the next major project, creating a beautifully designed permanent home for the Higgins Collection of Arms and Armor.”
About the Library
The new Library’s main level features a versatile reading room designed to be easily converted to host small programs, with tables and chairs that can be moved into different configurations—and an enhanced audio/visual system with an 80” screen to support lectures, presentations, conferences, and both in-person and virtual meetings. The Library’s main level also includes a selection of recently published books and periodicals, along with a new office for Library staff.
The lower level of the Library houses the majority of the collection in new, archive-appropriate steel compact shelving, providing safer and more durable storage for historical items. While access to this storage area will be limited to Library staff, the Library’s online catalogue makes it easy for people to identify the materials they need and to place requests for viewing.
About the Worcester Art Museum
The Worcester Art Museum creates transformative programs and exhibitions, drawing on its exceptional collection of art. Dating from 3,000 BCE to the present, these works provide the foundation for a focus on audience engagement, connecting visitors of all ages and abilities with inspiring art and demonstrating its enduring relevance to daily life. Creative initiatives— including pioneering collaborative programs with local schools, fresh approaches to exhibition design and in-gallery teaching, and a long history of studio class instruction—offer opportunities for diverse audiences to experience art and learn both from and with artists.
Since its founding in 1896, the Worcester Art Museum has assembled a collection of 38,000 objects: from the ancient Near East and Asia, to European and American paintings and sculptures, and continuing with works by contemporary artists from around the world. WAM has a history of making large scale acquisitions, such as its Medieval Chapter House, the Worcester Hunt Mosaic, its 15th-century Spanish ceiling, and the Flemish Last Judgment tapestry. In 2013, the Museum acquired the John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection, comprising two thousand arms and armor objects. It continues to commission and present new works and a full calendar of exhibitions. For more information about the Worcester Art Museum, visit worcesterart.org.
The Worcester Art Museum, located at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester, MA, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free for Museum Members and children ages 0-17. On the first Sunday of each month, admission is free for everyone. Museum parking is free. Tickets may be purchased in advance at worcesterart.org.