…an old friend at the RISD Museum received a facelift…
I had the good fortune to study architecture and fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD – pronounced ‘riz-dee’) – a small, very old school located in the smallest state in America.
It was in 1877 that RISD, and the RISD Museum were created by a group of visionary Providence, Rhode Island women. The school is extremely well-known however the MUCH lesser known museum remains a ‘secret’ – but not for long!
The 137 year old museum’s collection now has over 91,000 objects and is housed in more than 72,000 square feet in three historic and two contemporary buildings at the heart of the RISD campus; with a curatorial staff numbering 10 as well as an additional 75 members of the Museum team, including the director John W. Smith. It is the 3rd largest college museum in the world (behind Harvard and Yale).
In seeking a way to give back to the school and museum that has given me so much, five years ago I joined the Board of the museum: it has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying things that I have done in my life.
Last week I attended the unveiling of the newly renovated floor of the Radeke Building at the RISD Museum…
Rip Hudner Buddha Gallery
One of the best-known objects in the Museum’s collection, Dainichi Nyorai Buddha (ca. 1150-1200) was originally acquired in the mid 1930s. At nearly 10 feet in height, the seated Buddha is the largest historic wooden Japanese sculpture in the United States. The Buddha now has a new plinth, backdrop, and state of the art lighting.
This last phase of the renovation of the 1926 Radeke Building significantly reconfigured a suite of Asian galleries devoted to Japanese prints and Asian textiles in honor of two important benefactors to the RISD Museum: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (yes, the same woman who helped create the Museum of Modern Art) and her sister Lucy Truman Aldrich, fondly referred to at the museum as “Miss Lucy”.
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Japanese Print Gallery
Raffia paneled walls create a serene setting in the Japanese print gallery, refurbished to its 1952 design by architect Philip Johnson.
Rockefeller Galleries of Asian Art
An exceptional Japanese bridal palanquin, donated to the museum by Brown University, is now shown alongside exquisite Asian objects such as prized Chinese porcelains, and Islamic lacquerware, and a rotating selection of the many hundreds of extraordinary textiles donated by “Miss Lucy” Aldrich.
Angelo Donghia Costume and Textiles Gallery and Study Center
With funds provided by the the Angelo Donghia Foundation, the extraordinary costume and textile collections now have their own galleries for rotating exhibitions from the over 25,000+ objects in this collection. For the first time in the museum’s history both students and visitors will be able to view installations in dedicated galleries and large interactive display drawers, objects from the collection primarily held in storage.
Ancient Egyptian Gallery
Another first for the museum is seeing the coffin of the Egyptian priest Nesmin (250 BCE) open, giving visitors an intimate look at the underside of the lid and the image of the goddess Nut on the inside of the coffin base, and yes, a real mummy!
The remains of Nesmin are surrounded by ancient Egyptian tomb objects intended to accompany the deceased on the journey into the afterlife, which are now displayed so that we can enjoy them in THIS life…
Thomas Street – Providence, Rhode Island
A recent article “Why Providence is the Country’s Best Small City” in Architectural Digest talks about the architectural and cultural charms of the city, and includes the RISD Museum in what makes Providence such a desirable locale!
I will certainly be sharing more about “my museum” in future posts, and maybe some restaurants too…