Hood Museum of Art Receives Gift for Museum Learning Center

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An anonymous donor has committed $10 million to Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art to create a Museum Learning Center—the centerpiece of a major expansion and renovation of the Hood, slated to begin in spring 2016.

This artist’s rendering shows the planned Museum Learning Center of the Hood Museum of Art (Image courtesy of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects)

“This gift gets to the heart of what Dartmouth does best: provide undergraduates with unparalleled opportunities for authentic, challenging, active learning experiences,” said President Phil Hanlon ’77. “The Hood Museum of Art is a model teaching museum, and the Museum Learning Center will expand its capacity to transform student lives. We’re deeply grateful for this donor’s inspired commitment to Dartmouth students and the arts.”

With this gift, the Hood’s Board of Overseers and other museum patrons have committed $28 million toward the $50 million goal to complete the renovation, which, if funding is fully secured, will increase the existing 39,000-square-foot building by 15,000 square feet—radically increasing the museum’s gallery and teaching spaces and creating a prominent new entrance from Wheelock Street. The expansion project will thus provide the Museum with a significantly enlarged and updated facility that will allow the Hood to display more of its collection, provide a better visitor experience, and meet the increasing demand for teaching with original works of art. Plans call for the expanded museum to open to the public in the fall of 2018.

The renovation project, announced in 2012, will be designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and is part of Dartmouth’s overarching vision to establish a vibrant Arts and Innovation District on campus. This vision also includes the 2012 dedication of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, the creation of an Innovation Center and New Venture Incubator on Currier Place, and the forthcoming renovation of the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The Museum Learning Center will triple the number of the Hood’s object-study classrooms. When the museum opened in 1985, its Bernstein Study-Storage facility was the first of its kind and revolutionized the way academic museums provide undergraduates with firsthand access to collections. The new center will accommodate extensive and growing curricular demand for object-based teaching and research using the museum’s more than 65,000 works of art.

“The Museum Learning Center will help the Hood shape what it means to be a teaching museum in the 21st century,” said Hood Museum of Art Director Michael Taylor. “It will make the Hood’s teaching mission visible to all and give Dartmouth professors greater freedom and flexibility to integrate object-based teaching into their courses.”

The Center’s three new, state-of-the-art object-study classrooms will be equipped with smart technology and will be able to accommodate a range of class sizes, allowing the museum to meet the needs of faculty, students, and scholars across many disciplines.

The Hood is a leader in behind-the-scenes curricular engagement with collections, regularly making diverse objects from cultures around the world available for teaching. Among other student-centered offerings, two signature programs, “A Space for Dialogue and “Museum Collecting 101,” give undergraduates opportunities to curate their own exhibitions and choose works to add to the museum’s holdings, respectively. The Museum Learning Center will also increase the Hood’s ability to provide similar active learning experiences to more students

“The Hood Museum of Art has long been a place where students, faculty, and the community discover art through truly cutting-edge experiential programs,” said Jonathan L. Cohen ’60, Tuck ’61, chairman of the Hood’s Board of Overseers. “The Museum Learning Center will open these extraordinary opportunities to more students and pave the way for even more innovative programming.”

Dartmouth’s museum collection is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States, dating to 1772. The Hood Museum of Art annually organizes more than 150 programs for college, public, and regional school audiences; and mounts approximately fifteen exhibitions each year. Collection highlights include American and European prints, paintings, and sculpture as well as important holdings of Native American, African, Aboriginal Australian, and Melanesian art, and modern and contemporary art from around the world.