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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sneak Peek: Freer Gallery of Art

While we are awaiting the Freer Gallery of Art’s re-opening in October 2017, let’s take a peek at some recently digitized photos of the Freer though the years. Arriving at the Smithsonian Institution Archives in 2002, these photos come from a collection that documents early building plans for the Freer and how the building has changed over time.  The collection spans nearly 100 years, from photos of the Freer’s groundbreaking ceremony in 1916 to the various changes and renovations over the years.

Groundbreaking for Freer Gallery of Art, 1916, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 02-082 [SIA2015-000823].
Showing the staff of the museum gathered in front of a grove of trees for the ceremony, you can see how much the National Mall has changed in the century that has passed.  A later photo below shows the Gallery just after it had been completed. The Department of Agriculture building can be seen to the right, while trees and row houses are also visible in the neighborhood.

Aerial View of Completed East and North Front of Freer Gallery, by Unknown, c. 1923,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2007-0170.
In the 1920s, three peacocks lived in the Freer Courtyard. Donated by the National Zoological Park as a fitting complement to James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room, they moved back to the Zoo each winter and returned to the courtyard in the Spring.

Peacock and Babies in the Freer Gallery of Art Courtyard,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 02-082 [SIA2014-07070]. 
A building needs care and attention to last 100 years.  A previous renovation in the early 1990s did just that, expanding as well as renovating the existing space. Construction workers are shown through a partially constructed interior wall with the library still ready for research in the background.

Renovation of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA Acc. 02-082 [SIA2015-000821].
Additional renovations include the addition of the Sackler Gallery of Art in the 1980s, and, of course, the current renovations to upgrade the Freer's infrastructure. While the Freer is closed, you can still visit the Sackler and visit the Freer online, either through their digital collections or through Google Art Project.

To see more historic photos of the Freer Gallery of Art, click here and explore accession 02-082 or visit the Smithsonian Institution Archives' history page on the Freer Gallery of Art.

Lisa Fthenakis, Program Assistant
Smithsonian Institution Archives

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