The Gardner Museum’s Roofs Are Leaky, Jeopardizing Art

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

It’s been a tough year for Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Just days after longtime director Anne Hawley announced her resignation (see Hate Your Job? Gardner Museum Seeks Director), a security guard observed water dripping into the third floor Chapel Room.

The Boston Globe reports that the Tapestry Room, which lies one floor below, also had leaks later the same evening. Buckets and rubber mats were brought in, and jeopardized works were either removed from the area or draped in plastic.

Several days later, the Little Salon, which lies adjacent to the Tapestry Room, was also discovered to have leaks. It currently remains closed to the public, in addition to the Chapel Room.

“We are extremely cautious when a leak is detected and will drape and de-install art as a preventative measure,” said Hawley, who acknowledged that the leaks have been an ongoing problem for the past month. “We err on the side of caution and leave the plastic covering up until we are certain that any leak in the area has been stopped since water often travels. This is not always an ideal visitor experience, but protecting the collection is our top priority.”

This isn’t the first time the museum, which is housed in a building dating back to 1903, has had leak problems. Roofs over the Chapel Room and Tapestry Room were repaired in 1997 and 1998, respectively, and elaborate protocols have been put into place to deal with the leaks.

However, it appears the core problem with the roofing is not being addressed, and they are scheduled to be replaced again in two to three years.

It isn’t just the Gardner Museum that’s having trouble coping with this year’s especially snowy winter. Just last week, the roof at the Armory Show began to leak during the fair’s VIP preview, causing fair staff to haul out the cherry pickers and plug the holes in the roof (see Dealers Go Bananas Over Leaking Armory Show Roof as Snowstorm Hits New York).


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