art seen 3-10-05
Quincy philanthropist John Willis Gardner accomplished two goals in one stroke when he founded the Gardner Museum of Architecture & Design in 1977, preserving important pieces of Quincy’s history that otherwise might have ended up in landfills and saving a gorgeous stone Romanesque Revival structure that had been built in 1888 to house Quincy’s public library. Today, two floors of the historic building display the museum’s treasures. Researchers and office staff use the rest of the structure, including a basement workshop. Professionals and researchers may enter restricted areas by appointment.
Divided into five galleries on the main floor, the museum is focused on sharing the history of the area’s structures from 1822-1925. Examples of banisters, entryways, fences, and the region’s history of brick-making are on display. Many annotated photographs of long-gone landmarks, which elsewhere would be hidden in file drawers and microfiche reels, are arranged on the walls. The main floor’s South Gallery displays a selection of smaller stained-glass windows from area churches, but most of that collection is found in the “Windows of Color” gallery on the second floor.
Sherryl Lang, the museum’s executive director, says, “Architecture and certainly stained glass span utilitarian and fine-art forms, particularly when you look at the stained glass in the museum.” She notes that most examples in the “Windows of Color” collection were “installed on the second floor because of their size. The smaller first-floor display is a temporary exhibit, but it has remained for about a year now because we have been focusing on capital projects. It will be up for the next three or four months and possibly for the rest of the year.”
Stone pieces — salvaged materials from razed buildings — will go on exhibit in a new sculpture garden this summer, accompanied by information on the origin of the materials and original structures.
“We continue to collect architectural salvage,” Lang says. “It is not as readily available as it was. In the early years, salvage companies used to see these artifacts as rubble and were more readily willing to discard them. Now everyone recognizes they can make money out of salvage, and people aren’t so willing to donate. The price of the salvage has gone up, and we aren’t able to collect as much.”
The Gardner Museum of Architecture & Design, 332 Maine St. in Quincy, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 1-4 p.m. Sat. and Sun. Guided tours of the collection may be arranged by appointment. For more information, call 217-224-6873 or visit www.gardnermuseumarchitecture.org. To read more, go to www.aeroknow.com/vv.htm