January 20, 2006

Johnson Museum Plans Expansion

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With the recent acquisition of a $500,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Johnson Museum is preparing for the upcoming construction of a 13,000-foot underground expansion. The expansion, which will be entitled the “Study Center,” will house an open storage facility to display the works that cannot fit in the museum’s allotted exhibit spaces, as well as a new lecture hall.

The Study Center will be built underground near the existing museum and will “enable students to learn about the museum’s collection in greater depth than ever before,” said Frank Robinson, the director of the Johnson Museum. “The open storage facility will permit museum goers to gain access to hundreds of pieces of art that previously were inaccessible. It is a step forward for the study of art at Cornell.”

As the conditions of a challenge grant require that the recipient match the amount of the grant by a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio, the Museum is responsible for raising an additional $2,000,000 towards the construction of its new wing. According to the NEH’s press release, the challenge grant form is designed to “help institutions carry out long-term plans for strengthening their basic resources and activities in the humanities, and enhance financial stability through increased nonfederal support.”

Ten other cultural institutions received challenge grants from the NEH as well, although Cornell was the only art museum to receive a grant. Among recipients are the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institution, the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, Inc., the Levine Museum of the New South, the Vermont Humanities Council, the Mark Twain House, the University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, the New York Public Library, Swarthmore College and the South Dakota Humanities Council.

“The process of applying for the grant was intense,” said Rita Boratav, the Johnson’s Grant and Research Coordinator. “Many levels of the university were involved,” she said.

The museum underwent an internal selection process and worked with the Office of Sponsored Programs to put together the application,.

The grant also signified confirmation of the museum’s prestige and high quality, according to Boratav.

“We are extremely excited to receive any amount of money. It confirms our successful track record and promising future,” she said.

The Study Center will be designed by I.M. Pei’s firm, the same group that designed the original building. According to Andrea Potochniak, the publications and publicity coordinator of the Johnson Museum, “It is important to add onto the museum in the same style as its original architecture.”

The project is to be completed by early 2009, but a date for groundbreaking has not yet been set.

Archived article by Sarah Singer
Sun Staff Writer