Conservation Project Enhances Visitor Experience
The Yale Center for British Art is currently undertaking an extensive building conservation project—the largest since the Center opened in 1977. During this time the Center is closed to the public, but when it reopens in spring 2016, visitors will enjoy a new reinstallation of the collection in refreshed galleries, an updated Lecture Hall, and newly reconfigured space on the fourth floor including the Long Gallery. Significant work is also taking place to upgrade the Center’s infrastructure, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and telecommunication systems, and to increase accessibilities.
“Refurbishing our galleries and seeing the collection in new ways is one of the most interesting elements of the project,” noted Deputy Director Constance Clement, who is overseeing conservation efforts for the Center. According to Clement, curators will reconfigure temporary (pogo) walls to change the way objects are displayed. The Long Gallery on the fourth floor will be returned to a dense display, with paintings hung from floor to ceiling, as it was originally envisioned by the first Director of the Center, Jules Prown, and developed by the architect, Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974). In addition, a former office at the end of the Long Gallery is being repurposed and fitted out in order to serve as a collections seminar room, where students and scholars can view and study original works of art.
Clement is “particularly excited about the newly refurbished Lecture Hall, which will be furnished with new seats, including accessibility and companion seats, as well as railings and improved audio visual and lighting equipment.” Ways to approach the care and conservation of the Center were outlined in Louis I. Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art: A Conservation Plan (2011), by Peter Inskip and Stephen Gee, in association with Constance Clement. The first of its kind in the United States, the plan is the result of nearly a decade of research, which identified building features that must be protected and others that might be changed.
The Center’s Louis I. Kahn building was the last structure designed by the architect. It stands directly across the street from his first major commission, the Yale University Art Gallery (opened in 1953). Presented to the university by Paul Mellon (Yale College, Class of 1929), the Yale Center for British Art houses the largest collection of British art outside of the United Kingdom.
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