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Williams College Museum Of Art

The Prendergast Digitization Project

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Williams College Museum of Art , in Williamstown, Massachusetts, is widely considered to be one of the finest college art museums in the United States. It houses over 14,000 works that span the history of art, and is home to the worlds largest repository of work by the American artist brothers Maurice and Charles Prendergast. As a teaching museum with over 3,000 college students served annually, the staff wanted to raise the profile of its Prendergast collection and make it more accessible to a wider audience. WCMA was already a Gallery System client, using The Museum System collections management software to manage their permanent collection. They turned again to TMS, as well as eMuseum, Gallery Systems web publishing toolkit, to digitize the Prendergast collection, integrate the archives into their permanent collection, and to take the works online for all to learn from and enjoy.

Williams College Museum Of Art Develops New Ways To Explore Their Collection

Featured Grant

The Williams College Museum of Art received a $10,000 grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in 2018 for the development of a Collection Explorer tool that would provide users with new ways to browse and discover the Museums collection online. The following description of the Collection Explorer project has been taken directly from the final report submitted by the WCMA, prior to the launch of the interface.

The Collection Explorer interface allows users to browse the WCMA’s collection by color as well as visual similarity.

Collection Explorer provides a new view of WCMA’s collection, tailor-made for visual browsing and discovery. The Collection Explorer visual interface was created to enable faculty and students from a wide range of disciplines and academic departments to use the Museums collection in new ways and to find appropriate works of art to use in the study of various disciplines. The new interface may be especially useful to those who are not familiar with the WCMAs collection, who are without a background in art and art history, or who may not know what keywords to use in a text search. The Collection Explorer interface does not replace WCMA’s online catalogue, but is a complementary portal: a tool that rewards visual browsing, where every object has basic metadata and a link to other deeper pathways in the online catalogue.

Visual Browsing

Searching by Image

Interactive Data Visualization

Design & Development

The Museum Is Currently Housed In The University’s Former Library Building

The Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Wikimedia Commons.

The Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts, aims to celebrate its upcoming centennial with the unveiling of the first standalone building for the museum. The prestigious art university’s art collection has been exhibited in pre-existing buildings on its Berkshires campus since 1851.

The Brooklyn-based architecture firm SO-IL, made up of the principals Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, has been selected to design the facility. The conceptual design is expected to be completed in 2023, with construction expected to wrap in 2026 or 2027.

SO-IL was selected from a pool of 40 architecture firms, through a process informed by a two-year study conducted in consultation with the New York-based firm Deborah Berke Partners. SO-IL has previously spearheaded art-centric projects including the Amant Foundation in Brooklyn and the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis.

The museum holds a collection spanning more than 15,000 works, with particular strengths in American contemporary art and photography and ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Greco-Roman artefacts. The new museum will be located on the former site of the original Williams Inn, a building demolished in 2020.

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The decision came after a two-year planning and program study conducted in consultation with Deborah Berke Partners in New York.

Art is at the center of everything we do for our students, our campus, and our community, and so building a new home for Williams College Museum of Art is a focal point of the Colleges strategic plan, Mandel said in a prepared statement. While the caliber and creativity of all the shortlisted candidates were awe-inspiring, SO-ILs inventive and enthusiastic approach to our museums teaching mission stood out.

Strategically, the new museum will be in plain site to the hundreds or art lovers coming to visit the Clark Art Institute and Mass MoCA, who will drive right by it to come in or out of Williamstown.

Franks said the college wants the design of the new museum to reflect the natural vistas and the college campus.

It will be a beautiful sign about how important the arts are to the college and the region, she said.

We are honored to be working with the Williams community to envision the new Williams College Museum of Art, a project the brings together our passion for the arts with our commitment to education, said SO-IL co-founders Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg in a prepared statement. The new museum will connect the campus to the larger cultural ecosystem of the Northern Berkshires and provide an opportunity to advance innovative, sustainable building and museum practices.

Fulkerson Fund For Leadership In The Arts

Williams College Museum of Art  Art in America Guide

Established by Allan W. Fulkerson ’54, the Fund is now in its fifth year and continues to support a variety of student-centered projects at WCMA. Central components include:

  • Think Tank
  • The annual Leadership in the Arts Award is presented to one graduating Master’s and one College student. This award recognizes graduates who are poised to become future arts leaders. Winners are awarded a fully funded trip to meet with a prominent alumni arts leader and an American Alliance of Museums membership.

Ghent Altarpiece

During World War 2, a group of nearly 350 servicemen and women was established to recover and protect artwork from areas affected by the conflict. This organization was known as the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program , or more colloquially, the Monuments Men. Among the ranks of this enterprise were Williams graduates Charles Parkhurst ’35 and Lane Faison ’29, who both returned to WCMA to serve as museum directors after the war. In February 2014, Sony Pictures released The Monuments Men, a feature film directed by George Clooney that has revived interest in these lesser-known heroes of the war. On March 7, 2014, WCMA celebrated its own two Monuments Men by inviting Faison’s sons and Parkhurst’s widow to speak at the museum.

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Outdoor Sculpture On Campus

In the courtyard outside the museum, Louise Bourgeois eyes glom together like giant snails. They form benches at the back, slanted so that two people sitting together will slide into each other and one will slide off and the pulips gleam in the dark.

Outdoor sculpture appears around campus in rock towers, colossal ironwork and Ironic Columns holding up nothing at all. Bronze works in the college collection are also on show up the road at Field Farm.

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This new building would serve as the first stand-alone facility for WCMA, whose collection has been accommodated since 1851 in Lawrence Hall, which is the first library building of the college.

SO-IL has been founded by Jing Liu and Florian Idenburg in 2008. It has worked on several projects including the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis, and an art campus for the non-profit arts organisation Amant in New York.

Williams College has chosen SO-IL following the recommendation of a 12-member Architect Selection Committee comprising college representatives from WCMA, the faculty, and across campus, who together brought their expertise in arts, architecture, diversity and sustainability.

The panel considered almost 40 national and international architecture firms.

Along with the design work for the new museum, there also are plans for a detailed programming study of the historic Lawrence Hall in an effort to explore complementarities with the new museum and understand its full potential as a space for arts and academics.

Williams College president Maud S Mandel said: Art is at the center of everything we do for our students, our campus, and our community, and so building a new home for Williams College Museum of Art is a focal point of the Colleges strategic plan.

The new museum will be located on the former site of the Williams Inn in Williamstown.

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Williams College Museum Of Art

Established in 1926 to provide Williams College students with the opportunity to encounter painting and sculpture firsthand, WCMA occupies half of Lawrence Hall and now houses 13,000 works that span the history of art and hosts myriad changing exhibitions. Dramatic spaces designed by Charles Moore are well suited to the display of WCMAs permanent collections, particularly strong in modern and contemporary art, American art from the late 18th century to the present, and the art of world cultures. The Rose Gallery, a state of the art museum classroom, is emblematic of WCMAs commitment to undergraduate education. Here, staff members work with individual professors to utilize museum collections to enhance their course offerings.

The museum recently launched WCMA at Night, an evening series of happenings with music, food, dancing and more, on the third Thursday of most months from 5:00-9:00 p.m. Artists, musicians, dancers, writers, students, and others re-imagine the museum as a site for connection, collaboration, and art-making.

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