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The Hood Expands: Creating an Ideal Learning Environment

Hood Quarterly, autumn 2012
Michael Taylor, Director

The Hood Museum of Art is a teaching museum. Our mission is to create an ideal learning environment that fosters transformative encounters with works of art.
(Hood Museum of Art Mission Statement, 2012)

It is with great excitement that the Hood Museum of Art announces the renovation and expansion of its award-winning facility. The museum will close for construction at the end of 2013 and will reopen with new galleries, a Museum Learning Center, and a welcoming entrance with new amenities in 2015. The conceptual vision for the new Hood Museum of Art responds directly to the museum’s mission and role on Dartmouth’s campus and in the community, and it will be developed and refined into a design plan over the next year by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in conjunction with Hood staff, senior Dartmouth administrators, and campus planning leadership. The vision is grounded in three beliefs: that an ideal architectural environment should allow all visitors to engage in intimate and direct experiences with the art on view; that the museum’s strong connection to the community and campus should remain apparent in its architectural design; and that the relationship among the buildings in the College’s arts district and the surrounding landscape is critical to a positive campus and community life.

Dartmouth began expansion planning for the Hood in 2010 in response to the continued growth of the museum’s role on campus, a role that encompasses its collections, exhibitions, programs, and teaching activity. Dartmouth’s collection—which dates back to 1772, three years after the College was founded—is among the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States. Since the Hood opened, the collection has increased from approximately 47,000 works to more than 70,000 today, which extend across a broad spectrum of cultures and historical periods. First conceived without a formal education department, the Hood is now nationally recognized for the 130 classes and 2,000 Dartmouth students it teaches each year in its Bernstein Study-Storage Center and in the galleries, and the thousands of K–12 school children who visit the museum in conjunction with their school curricula. The museum also organizes more than 150 programs and events for college, public, and regional school audiences, and mounts approximately fifteen exhibitions each year.

The expanded museum facility will create new exhibition, educational, office, and public spaces. New galleries will incorporate dedicated display spaces for African art, Aboriginal Australian art, modern and contemporary art, Native American art, and works on paper, none of which are regularly on view at present due to space limitations. New visitor amenities will include a welcoming atrium with a café, orientation area, new hands-on studio space, lockers, restrooms, and places to meet and study. The museum’s current teaching spaces, which include the Bernstein Study-Storage Center and the permanent collection galleries, no longer meet the teaching and learning needs of faculty and students or the volume of demand. The three additional classrooms provided through the planned Museum Learning Center and the five new galleries will address the increased interest in direct study of original works of art for learners of all ages. Furthermore, the smart classrooms will enable the contextualization of objects on view through the use of film, the Internet, the museum’s comprehensive database of its collections, and other forms of new media.

Encouraged by the museum’s achievements in the first twenty-five years of its life, we are determined to be bold and imaginative in our responses to current and future opportunities. Below is a brief outline of the main strategic goals in ten areas of the museum’s operation. A fully illustrated comprehensive planning document for the growth of the museum will be published by the end of the year.

1. Collections Growth and Reinstallation 

We will broaden and deepen the collections and double the gallery space to enable us to show works currently in storage. We will also enhance the galleries we currently have.

2. Collections Storage and Conservation 

We will design new (and organize existing) storage areas to support the museum’s teaching mission. We will conserve more of the collection and reframe paintings and works on paper for presentation in the galleries.

3. Collections Access and Digitization

We will digitize the entire 70,000-object collection by 2019 and facilitate teaching and learning with the collections, both in the museum and its classrooms and in the community and local schools, with innovative functionality.

4. Exhibitions

We will organize insightful exhibitions that are the result of new research and scholarship and organize student-driven exhibitions that support our teaching mission.

5. Publications

We will publish books that privilege new scholarship and interdisciplinary approaches and are recognized for their superior design.

6. School and Public Programs

We will implement innovative new teaching strategies to strengthen K–12 object-based learning experience in the galleries and in the newly designed studio.

7. Student and Faculty Engagement

With triple the number of object-study classrooms, all equipped with smart technology, we will be able to significantly broaden and deepen our curricular reach. The new gallery and social spaces will encourage student non-curricular use of the museum as well.

8. Marketing, Public Relations, and Membership

We will connect everyone with the museum’s collection and teaching practice, strengthen publicity about the museum worldwide, and communicate the benefits of mission-focused philanthropy with all museum donors.

9. Facility, Security, and Visitor Services

We will utilize the best technology available for a durable, efficient, and socially and environmentally friendly museum and improve visitor services—including amenities such as a café, lockers, and a new entrance that will offer better front-door accessibility—to support the museum learning experience.

10. Finance and Human Resources

We will increase the staff to accommodate a larger and more visible museum and build the endowment to cover this growth and the museum’s increased operating costs after the expansion.

This project represents a thrilling challenge that we wish to share with everyone: the opportunity to realize the museum’s full potential as a model teaching museum. We will continue to engage with all our audiences to connect our aspirations with architectural plans as we enter the next phase of the expansion process. We look forward to talking with you and sharing more about the Hood’s expansion in the months ahead!

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