Three museums dedicated to advancing and supporting learning at Harvard University
Ever since their founding, the Harvard Art Museums—the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum—have been dedicated to advancing and supporting learning at Harvard University, in the local community, and around the world. The museums have played a leading role in the development of art history, conservation, and conservation science, and in the evolution of the art museum as an institution.
Through research, teaching, professional training, and public education, the museums strive to advance the understanding and appreciation of art. Programs encourage close looking at original works of art, collaboration with campus and community partners, and the production of new scholarship.
The Harvard Art Museums are comprised of three separate museums—the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum—each with a different history, collection, guiding philosophy, and identity.
The Fogg Museum opened in 1895 on the northern edge of Harvard Yard in a modest Beaux-Arts building designed by Richard Morris Hunt, twenty-one years after the President and Fellows of Harvard College appointed Charles Eliot Norton the first professor of art history in America. It was made possible when, in 1891, Mrs. Elizabeth Fogg gave a gift in memory of her husband to build “an Art Museum to be called and known as the William Hayes Fogg Museum of Harvard College.” In 1927, the Fogg Museum moved to its home at 32 Quincy Street.
The Busch-Reisinger Museum was founded in 1901 as the Germanic Museum. Unique among North American museums, the Busch-Reisinger is dedicated to the study of all modes and periods of art from central and northern Europe, with an emphasis on German-speaking countries. In 1921 the Germanic Museum moved to Adolphus Busch Hall, built partly with funds from Adolphus Busch’s son-in-law, Hugo Reisinger, and in 1950 it was renamed the Busch-Reisinger Museum. The museum moved again in 1991, this time to Werner Otto Hall at 32 Quincy Street, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates. Adolphus Busch Hall continues to house the founding collection of plaster casts of medieval art and is the venue for concerts on its world-renowned Flentrop pipe organ, while the Busch-Reisinger Museum’s holdings include significant works of Austrian Secession art, German expressionism, 1920s abstraction, and materials related to the Bauhaus. Other strengths include late-medieval sculpture and eighteenth-century art. The museum also holds noteworthy postwar and contemporary art from German-speaking Europe.
In 1912, Langdon Warner taught the first courses in Asian art at Harvard, and the first at any American university. By 1977, Harvard’s collections of Asian, ancient, and Islamic and later Indian art had grown sufficiently in size and importance to require a larger space for their display and study. With the generosity of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, a leading psychiatrist, entrepreneur, art collector, and philanthropist, the Harvard Art Museums founded a museum dedicated to works from Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum, a new museum building at 485 Broadway designed by James Stirling, opened in 1985. This structure remains the home of the History of Art and Architecture Department and the Media Slide Library.