STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Norman Rockwell Museum, the world's largest and most comprehensive repository of art and archival materials relating to Norman Rockwell's life and work, is assessing possibilities for expansion and has initiated feasibility studies to examine various options for meeting its pressing need for more space.
The need for expansion derives from numerous factors. Primary among these is the museum's broadened mission, which now includes the collection, study and exhibition of illustration art not only by Rockwell, but by the full range of American illustrators. Other areas of major growth include educational programming, scholarship and outreach to global audiences. It is hoped that additional space will bring all of these activities together, while also providing room for curatorial and collection-based initiatives.
"As the Rockwell Museum approaches its second half-century in 2019, we look forward to serving more visitors, scholars, and students, to growing our collection of American illustration art, and to expanding our program of traveling exhibitions, among other activities," Norman Rockwell Museum Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt said. "In recent years, the museum has become the primary national resource related to American illustration for scholars, students, researchers, and public and private collectors, bringing them together with each other and with a vast digital archive of illustration, and we need to ensure that this work can continue.
"We look forward to developing an expansion plan that not only improves the museum but also serves both our broader community and, importantly, our Stockbridge and Berkshire neighbors, as we make new investments in artworks, education, and scholarship."
The feasibility studies will consider the possibility of expanding on either the museum's present campus, in the Glendale neighborhood of Stockbridge, or at an off-campus site. One location being considered is the old Stockbridge Town Hall, a historic building on Main Street that has been vacant since 2008, when the town moved its offices. If the Town Hall, historically known as Proctor Hall, were to prove feasible, it could mark the return of a museum presence to Stockbridge’s village center, where the museum originated, on Main Street, nearly a half century ago.
Museum Trustees Peter Williams and Robert Horvath, co-chairs of the Committee on Growth, said that location has special appeal because it is across the street from Rockwell's first home in Stockbridge and was depicted in his famous painting Springtime in Stockbridge. Also, a village town hall is a seminal Rockwellian setting, as portrayed in his classic work "Freedom of Speech."
Most of the museum's scholarly, curatorial, storage and exhibition activities now occur — under extremely cramped conditions — in the museum building. With the museum's proposed expansion study, the museum's gallery-related activities, including exhibitions and public programs, and its shop will remain there. The new site would house the illustration library and archive, study gallery with open storage, room for symposia and salon-style convening, and a reading room, with enhanced technology for digital engagement and distance learning. Space for a curatorial office suite, archival management, processing of digital collections, exhibition preparation, and art storage would also be included, freeing space for more public programs in the present museum building.
Since Norman Rockwell Museum opened in 1969, more than 6 million people have visited its galleries, and more than 5 million have attended its traveling exhibitions. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of school-aged children, college students and teachers reached through gallery-based programs, outreach to area schools, and K–12 curricula, more than 2 million individuals have engaged with the museum's online collections and educational experiences. The museum has worked with hundreds of institutions across the nation, sharing its traveling exhibitions, and created a national research network that encompasses dozens of important illustration collections. The museum is preparing for the rapidly growing digital universe of the future so that new generations of visitors, students, and educators can partake of its offerings from anywhere in the world.
The museum's illustration collection and research archive are among a number of prestigious research collections in the region, enhancing the Berkshires as a notable source of national primary research materials. These collections include the Clark's Manton Research Center; Williams College Rare Books collection, which holds Daniel Chester French's papers and other notable historic archives; Hancock Shaker Village; Herman Melville papers at the Berkshire Athenaeum; Stockbridge history collections of national importance, accessible at the Stockbridge Library, Museum and Archive; Native American collections stewarded in Stockbridge by the Trustees of the Reservations; and the Norman Rockwell Museum’s long held collections of the archives and papers of Norman Rockwell and the Dwight Collection of early Berkshire History.
Over the next six to 12 months, the committee will undertake fundraising feasibility and financial planning studies, evaluate master-planning options outlined in recent years by Ann Beha Architects, and give close review to a study for Proctor Hall prepared for the Museum by Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston, with the aim of solidifying a phased expansion plan in about a year.
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