College explores renovating or rebuilding facility
Having tabled accreditation for Lawrence Hall, which houses the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) and a significant portion of the College’s art history and studio faculty, the College is assessing the possibility of future renevation and a new facility. Though the accreditation report acknowledged the museum’s important educational role both for the campus and wider community, it cited concerns that the physical state of the building rendered it unfit to safely host a continually growing art collection.
“The accreditation decision was tabled until the museum could address concerns that centered on the condition of the building, ensuring safe and adequate space for collections and rebuilding the museum staff,” said Provost Dukes Love, who oversees strategic planning at the College. “It’s essentially a probationary status, and we’ve been given additional time to address these concerns.”
The museum, like the College, undergoes an accreditation process approximately every 10 years. After a comprehensive self-study, a site visit by peer reviewers and an accreditation review, the American Alliance of Museums, which conducts the process, can approve, deny or table a museum’s accreditation. Around 30 percent of decisions are tabled, and 95 percent of these tabled decisions ultimately result in an approved accreditation.
“We’re taking the tabling period as an opportunity to both make short term changes and also to address the longer term challenges of Lawrence Hall,” Love said.
In response to the report’s concern over the safe storage of a growing art collection, the College will move a significant portion of its collection to a newly completed arts storage facility and library. In addition, a planned renovation of Lawrence Hall is in the works. This summer, there will be a strategic planning exercise on the future of Lawrence Hall, where the College will look to address concerns in the accreditation report and discuss the likely possibility of investing in a new museum.
“The College recognizes that a longer term solution to the challenges of the physical space of the museum will likely require investments in a new museum building and the renovation of Lawrence Hall, which is both historically important and architecturally significant,” Love said. “A new museum building would not only be a more cost-efficient way to address the central challenges outlined in the accreditation report; it would also open up some exciting interdisciplinary possibilities in Lawrence Hall.”
Though any future projects must ultimately receive approval from the president and the Board of Trustees, Love is optimistic that the College will not only meet the concerns of the accreditation process but also use this as an opportunity to further support the arts on campus.
“We have some exciting energy surrounding all of the arts on campus,” Love said. “The College is committed to ensuring that we not only pass accreditation but that we continue to support and build on our legacy of curating, researching and teaching an extraordinary collection of art from around the world.”