Museum fly-over

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Aerial view of the Philadelphia Museum and the Perelman Building. Photo courtesy of the Museum. Click to see it bigger.


Libby told you in her post about the hard hat tour we took of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new Perelman Building. The tour was notable for helping to clarify the importance of the new building for the museum.

Not only will Perelman house two entire departments (Costumes and Textiles and Prints, Drawings and Photography) but it will have the conservation departments, a library, an educator’s resource center, beautiful exhibition spaces — and the director’s office.

This will not be a satellite building so much as a central hub — not a backup hard drive for storage but a power center and a show piece.


Everyone at the Museum is excited about this. Director Anne d’Harnoncourt explained that the museum had expanded into its last possible nook and cranny in 1976, and she called Perelman “A great addition to the museum which hasn’t gone outside its footprint since 1898.”

Perelman is the first huge step in the master plan to expand, restore and improve the museum d’Harnoncourt said.

The museum’s 30,000 costumes will be housed, conserved and shown in Perelman. The roughly 150,000 prints, drawings, photos will likewise be housed and shown in a gallery dedicated to them.


The Perelman building has quirks, d’Harnoncourt said: It’s a long, slender building with a wrap-around. But they think it will be a fabulous space for sculpture she said.

Architect Richard Gluckman spoke of how the Perelman building is less a “renovation” than a restoration, intervention and creation.

When we got to the top floor where the painting conservation department will be d’Harnoncourt — who had been enthusiastic throughout piping up with her information, insights and thoughts in every room we visited — became absolutely passionate about the northern light in the chamber that would let the PMA’s conservators, for the first time ever, work under painterly conditions to conserve and restore paintings. It was a moment.

From her new office in Perelman d’Harnoncourt’s view looks up the Ben Franklin Parkway. As she pointed out, she can see “the mothership” across the street, and she can see City Hall, another building with history and ties to the museum.

Anyway, I’m happy to see the Museum grow into Perelman. Among other things, we’ll all be able to enjoy the photography exhibits on flat land in a dedicated gallery instead of in the carpeted ramp space that now serves as a photo gallery.

Summer of 2007 is the target date for opening of Perelman. That’s like tomorrow. No wonder they’re all excited. Much work to do in not a lot of time. I have photos of our hard hat visit in a flickr set.

P.S. One of the small details I noticed on the tour were two cracked windows. Somehow I hope they don’t fix them. The idea of the cracked glass in Perelman winking at Duchamp‘s Large (cracked) Glass piece in the Museum’s modern collection cracks me up.