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backstory50: Building a Museum

No, it’s not shiny, or fancy, or visible from the road. But that’s not what it was supposed to be. 

No, it’s not shiny, or fancy, or visible from the road. But that’s not what it was supposed to be. Prior to the groundbreaking on October 6, 1969, Neuberger Museum of Art architect Philip Johnson of Johnson/Burgee observed, “The concept of the museum at Purchase is completely different from the other eight museums that we have worked on. Instead of trying to create a community landmark that would represent in its architectural form the idea of a place sacred to the arts, we have attempted at Purchase to design a facility for the use and delectation of students and teachers devoting to the practicing as well as the exhibiting arts.”

A space to be used, not a space to be held as sacred. This is a pretty important concept, one with a lot of currency right now. Where I get tripped up is on the word “delectation.” I know what the word means but I confess I looked it up because I needed to rethink its definition within the context of a building. I think what the architect meant is that they wanted students and faculty to not only use the building but to delight in using it. I’d like to think that the Neuberger has stayed in line with that principle by creating opportunities in which our community is not only using the museum but delighting in doing so.

Today’s 50th anniversary thank-you goes to our Chief Preparator and Head of Facilities David Bogosian for researching this story and choosing this great image (which I had never seen before) of the construction of the Neuberger’s staircase to the Stairway Gallery. You can learn more from him about it here. David has been with the Museum for almost twenty years and, along with our crew, makes our exhibitions look beautiful.

Tracy Fitzpatrick
Director, Neuberger Museum of Art

Orange square with a white border and large numbers 50 with small letters neu overlapping the top of the 5 and the word Years beneath

Watch for a new backstory every Wednesday and follow us on social media as we share stories about the Museum’s history, our evolution to the present day, and look ahead to our exciting future. Stay up-to-date with the latest news and “NEU 50 Years” updates on our anniversary webpage.