After months of hard work, in conditions ranging from the freezing temperatures of January to the hot and humid days of an upstate New York summer, construction crews are finally nearing completion of the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art. The museum, located across from the Molly Root House on College Hill Road, will feature a 6,200-square-foot exhibition space, a creative teaching laboratory and unique open archives.
The museum’s construction is funded by the generosity of Wendy and Keith ’50 Wellin, whose gift is the single largest individual donation in Hamilton’s history. Construction is overseen by Associate Vice President for Facilities and Planning Steve Bellona and coordinated by Associate Director of Physical Plant Bill Huggins.
The most distinctive feature of the museum is its use of open archives. According to former Sotheby’s senior vice president John Nye ’87, museums usually keep the majority of their collections hidden away in archives due to limited gallery space. The Wellin Museum of Art’s open archives circumvent this problem by using enormous glass cases – custom built in Milan, Italy, and shipped via container barge – which will be able to display the museum’s soon-to-be vast collections even when they are in storage.
The museum’s vast exhibition space has been designed to maximize flexibility and allow students to curate their own exhibitions. According to Bellona, The museum’s designers at the architectural firm Machado and Silvetti “were inspired by the concept of a teaching museum, which helped create the thought of an open facility where the majority of the collection would be on display for use by faculty and students in the teaching and display of art.” The museum’s design places a focus on exterior compactness and interior openness.
Bellona noted that the museum’s construction has encountered some material delays, but that such delays are not out of the ordinary for a construction project of this scale and that the delays will not impact the museum’s scheduled completion date of early August. After the museum is completed, collections and museum staff will be moved from the Emerson Gallery in Christian A. Johnson Hall to their new home in the Wellin Museum of Art.
The museum will be opened up to students, faculty and the general public on Friday, Oct. 5, during Fallcoming Weekend. Museum operations will be directed by Tracy Adler, former curator for the Hunter College Art Galleries in Manhattan.