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Founded : 1870

Address : 465 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Affiliation : School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts

Number of Art Works : Around 450,000

Architect : Guy Lowell

Hours : 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Saturday- Tuesday), 10:00 am to 10:00 pm (Wednesday- Friday)

Admission Fee : USD 25 (adults), USD 23 (65 and above, students 18 and above), Free/ USD 10 (ages 7-17, conditions apply), Free (ages 6 and below), Free (members)

Closed On : New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Patriot’s Day, 4th of July

Notable Collections : Hartley collection, Rockefeller collection, Rothschild collection, Ancient Egyptian artefacts, Art of Asia, Art of the Ancient World, Art of Europe etc.

Exhibitions : Collecting Stories: The Invention of Folk Art, Read My Lips, Community Arts Initiative: Exchange Codes, Black Histories, Black Futures etc.

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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Overview

Museum of Fine Arts is a public museum in Boston that houses over 450,000 pieces of art work and happens to be the world's 17th largest museum. With a large number of collections like Arts of Africa and Oceania, Art of the Americas, Egyptian artefacts, photographs, musical instruments, jewellery etc., the museum garners over a million visitors every year.

Originally established in Copley Square in 1870 and later moved to Fenway in 1909, Museum of Fine Arts or MFA Boston is one of the most frequently visited museums not just in Boston but in the world. With over 450,000 art works and 8,161 paintings (second only to Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC), it was the 52nd most commonly visited art museums in the entire world as of 2019 and the 17th largest as well. Affiliated to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, it not only houses art works like paintings, drawings, jewellery, instruments etc. but also hosts many exhibitions.

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About the Libraries at the Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts comprises of a total of 9 libraries, with the William Morris Hunt Memorial Library (at the Horticultural Hall), named after the artist, being the main branch and the other 8 being curatorial department libraries. Together, they contain over 476,000 items which include auction catalogues, serials and ephemera.

These items are representative of MFA’s encyclopedic collections and also provide a ton of information and research on the various collections, art pieces and exhibitions at the museum. Moreover, it is the Museum Archives that contain a significant amount of information in the form of its administrative and curatorial records.

The main library is open to the public throughout the year, between Monday and Friday, with the exception of certain holidays. Every collection is available to the visitors in the Reading Room except for Special Collections Requests; this warrants an appointment.

What are Some of the Collections at the Museum of Fine Arts?

Given the fact that the museum contains so many varied pieces of art, it is no surprise that they have been categorised into collections, with some of the prominent ones being:
  • The Art of the Americas: These include art pieces that have originated from different parts of North, South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, like Paul Revere's portrait by John Singleton Copley and The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit by John Singer Sargent.
  • Arts of Africa and Oceania: This collection features a variety of art pieces from the African continent as well as other countries such as New Zealand, Indonesia and Hawaii, like the three guardian figures from Borneo, a Maori funnel and the Benin bronzes.
  • Contemporary Art: With over 1,500 works that include paintings, photographs, sculptures and videos, this collection not only puts on display pieces of contemporary art by current artist like El Anatsui and Tara Donovan but also by Winslow Homer and Claud Monet amongst others.
  • Judaica: The Judaica collection features Jewish ritual objects that were used throughout history in various scenarios. Some of these artefacts include brass Hanukkah lamps, books and manuscripts (Hebraica) and marriage contracts on parchment etc.
  • Jewellery: MFA houses a very prominent jewellery collection that includes everything from contemporary jewellery, 19th century jewellery and Indian jewellery to Ancient Egyptian and Nubian jewellery and costume jewellery.
  • Japanese Art: The museum is known to possess the most amount of Japanese art works after Japan itself, with the number being somewhere around 100,000. This includes paintings, ceramic pieces, statues and ukiyo-e prints.

How to Reach Museum of Fine Arts

Getting to the Museum of Fine Arts is fairly easy and people can opt for public transportation or for a car. When getting here in a car, there is parking available at three different garages that are the Huntington Lot, the Fenway Lot and the Museum Road Garage; the charges for parking vary depending on the duration as well as membership status. The Green Line E and the Orange Line drop off passengers at the Museum of Fine Arts and the Ruggles stop respectively. Moreover, buses 39, 8, 19, 47 and CT2 drop off passengers at Huntington Avenue or the Louis Prang Street stop.

The History of the Museum of Fine Arts and its Many Renovations

The museum was established in 1870 and was originally on the Boston Athenaeum’s (one of the country’s oldest independent libraries) top floor, with the majority of its collection comprising of items from the Athenaeum’s Art Gallery. About 6 years later, it was moved to Copley Square and was located in a brick building (demolished after the museum was moved elsewhere) of Gothic Revival architecture that was designed by John Hubbard Sturgis as well as Charles Brigham.

Around 1907, architect Guy Lowell was given the responsibility of designing the museum that would be located in the Fenway-Kenmore neighbourhood, on Huntington Avenue and in 1909, the first phase of the construction (150 m granite façade and a grand rotunda) was completed. The rest of the museum came about in parts, with the second phase being completed around 1915 (a wing along Back Bay Fens), the Decorative Arts Wing in 1928, an addition in 1970, an expansion in 1976, the West Wing in 1981, the Tenshin-En Japanese Garden in 1988 and the Norma Jean Calderwood Garden Court and Terrace in 1997.

Between 2001 and 2008, the museum managed to raise a significant amount of money to cover renovation and expansion costs, which included a new wing, endowment as well as operating costs. This included the construction of the infamous Art of the Americas Wing and the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard, along with the redesigning of the Huntington Avenue and Fenway entrances, the gardens, the inside courtyards and the access roads.

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