The Harvard Art Museums offer visitors three delightfully diverse collections of art, exhibited in three distinct museums: the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. After a recent renovation, the museums are now housed in the same building while maintaining the unique character of each. For the first time ever, visitors can see all three collections under one roof – and it is a striking glass roof at that – while still appreciating their individuality. To honor the distinctiveness of the different museums, the architecture of their newly renovated home is a lovely fusion of different styles that are boldly contrasting and yet decidedly complementary.
The oldest of the three museums, the Fogg Museum, was opened in 1895 following a donation from the wife of William Hayes Fogg. Mrs. Fogg specifically requested that the money be used to open an art museum in her husband’s name. The Fogg Museum opened its doors just 21 years after the very first professor of art history in America began his teachings at Harvard University. Upon opening, the Fogg Museum was the first American building constructed specifically for the training of museum professionals and art scholars. Today, the museum houses a wide variety of Western works available for both student and public viewing.
Originally called the Germanic Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum remains devoted to works from central and northern Europe, with a special focus on German-speaking regions. The museum’s Flentrop pipe organ, perhaps one of its most popular items, draws many visitors on occasions when the museum doubles as a concert venue for the famous organ.
The newest of the three museums, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, is dedicated to Asian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean works of art. This museum was created in 1985, about 60 years after Harvard held the first course on Asian art in America. The university was steadily accumulating Asian and middle eastern works to aid study on the subject, and thus created the museum in order to best store the works, and to enable the public to appreciate the collection alongside the students of Harvard.