More than four years after opening its Renzo Piano-designed expansion, The Morgan Library & Museum has given its 1906 McKim, Mead & White building a loving restoration, expertly executed by Beyer Blinder Belle. In addition to cleaning the mosaics and marbles, the Museum has opened two new spaces to the public, Pierpont Morgan’s vault and the serene North Room, formerly the director’s office. The renovation allows more of the museum’s permanent collection to be displayed, and allows curators to better display those objects, thanks in large part to the exacting lighting design by Renfro Design Group. The Rotunda (above) glows with new lighting and cleaned surfaces and five new display cases, lit with fiber optics, to show the institution’s fascinating collection, including a “life mask” of George Washington, a cast of his face made while he was alive as a study for a sculpture (in the case on the right).
The East Room has three tiers of rare books, illuminated with strip LEDs, accessible to staff by secret passageways (no kidding). The new display cases match the walnut of the existing bookshelves, but use a more contemporary design vocabulary. The carpet, though of the period, is also new to the room. The dramatic pendant lamp is original to the room, though it had been in storage for many years.
The more intimately scaled North Room served as the office of the collection’s first librarian and curator, and later became the directors office. Open to the public for the first time, the room will house rare books above the mezzanine, with a permanent installation of antiquities in new shallow display cases below.
The vast West Room served as Morgan’s library and displays some of the paintings and majolica he collected, largely in the last 15 years of his life. The vault, visible at left, often held objects Morgan was considering for purchase.
The vault now offers more space for display, and gives visitors a glimpse into Morgan’s life as a collector. The restored McKim, Mead & White building opens to the public on Saturday, October 30.