The first photo, from 1910, shows the Classical Gallery at the Worcester Art Museum. For the first couple decades after WAM was founded in 1897, a large part of the collection was comprised of plaster copies of famous sculptures from antiquity. Included here are: Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, The Dying Gaul, Diana of Versailles, The Parthenon Frieze, some examples by Praxiteles and others. As the Worcester Art Museum’s collection of original works grew, these copies were phased out (smashed and thrown in the garbage) and most were gone by 1930. Out of the dozens of copies, only one plaster cast was saved: a Renaissance Bust of a Young Woman, which is still on display in this same room, now the Museum Library.
Then and Now: “Second Floor (East Gallery- Worcester Art Museum, 1910 and 2014”. by Travis Simpkins
The first photo, from 1933, was taken shortly after the Renaissance Court addition of the Worcester Art Museum was completed. It shows the area without the Antioch mosaics and prior to the installation of the Morgan Memorial Organ pipework above the corner lay lights.
Then and Now: “Renaissance Court- Worcester Art Museum, 1933 and 2014”. by Travis Simpkins
Sketch of an Ancient Roman portrait of “Marcus Aurelius”, 140 A.D. Marble. Collection of the Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins
"Visitors to the Worcester Art Museum often ask why the corner sections of skylight squares in the Renaissance Court are covered. It’s not easy to verbally explain, but those sections have a room above them that contains the pipework for the Morgan Memorial Organ, which no longer works… but it could with proper maintenance (shown in photo at right). Installed in 1942, the Opus 1036 Organ was made by the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company and was located on the first floor near the Asian Galleries. The mechanical controls are still located on the second floor, with the bellows and pipework placed loftily above on the fourth level of the building." -Travis Simpkins
Sketch of a Pre-Columbian “Richly Adorned Male Figure”, 600-900 A.D. Collection of the Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins
The first photo, from 1950, shows a west-to-east view of the fourth floor galleries about a decade after the new level was added on top of the original 1897 building of the Worcester Art Museum. For the first five decades after it’s construction in 1940, the fourth floor was used as Special Exhibition space. Today, a viewer in the same spot would find themselves in the center of the Pre-Columbian Gallery (which contains many of my favorite objects in the WAM collection).
Then and Now: “Fourth Floor (West Gallery)- Worcester Art Museum, 1950 and 2014. by Travis Simpkins
Sketch of a Pre-Columbian “Woman in a Turtle Shell” Mexico- Veracruz. 300-600 A.D. Collection of the Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins
Sketch of an Aztec “Fertility Goddess.” circa 1450-1521. Stone. Collection of the Worcester Art Museum. by Travis Simpkins
After it’s installation at the Worcester Art Museum, the Antioch Hunt mosaic was coated with a varnish that was intended to saturate the colors. Instead, it yellowed the surface over the years. The 1978 photo shows conservators at work cleaning the tesserae (one of several full treatments over the decades). Later work involved replacing previous concrete fill areas with a new reversible acrylic lime mortar. The 1978 photo was taken in artificial light (the skylight was damaged in 1938, covered in metal, and was not replaced until the early 2000’s), so I shot the 2014 photo with incandescent lighting as well.
Then and Now: “Renaissance Court- Worcester Art Museum, 1978 and 2014”. by Travis Simpkins
In 1936, the Worcester Art Museum hired Edmond de Beaumont as it’s first full-time conservator. During his four decades at WAM, de Beaumont examined and documented much of the collection with innovative and technical finesse, using x-radiography and infrared photography. Further focus on conservation was added in 1947 when George L. Stout came on as WAM Director. Recently portrayed by George Clooney in “The Monuments Men,” Stout helped rescue countless artistic treasures from theft and destruction during World War II. Prior to the war, he had been a conservator at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum. George Stout served at WAM until 1955, when he left to become the Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He led the Gardner Museum for 15 years, retiring in 1970.