Art museum improvements scheduled for summer of 2017

Published: January 06, 2017
Updated: January 20, 2017
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The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University is working with the Office of the University Architect to implement phase one of a museum renovation. To complete the work, the museum will temporarily close to the public during the summer and reopen in the fall. The Lethander Art Path and Susan Phillips Gardens will remain accessible to visitors during the renovation.

Project manager Joe Ruscin described the plan, noting the largest undertaking in this project will be to improve the acoustics in the Grand Gallery, the Dwight and Helen Carlisle Lobby and the Museum Café—something that has been under discussion since the museum opened to the public in 2003. Crews will apply a sound control product to the ceiling surfaces in those spaces, improving the acoustics while still maintaining the aesthetics of the venue.

In addition to acoustics, museum administration and the architects will consider how best to resolve the problem of the glare and heat gain along the west expanse of glass in the Grand Gallery. Consideration is being given to a number of possibilities that include, but are not limited to, new developments in film products that are applied to the glass.

"We will continue to research and find the best solution," said Marilyn Laufer, museum director. "Not only does the intense glare and temperature affect the visitor experience, but it limits what we are able to exhibit in that space given conservation needs of the artwork."

The plan also includes a rework of the existing collection storage areas, including what administrators described as a more efficient storage system to accommodate more artwork and grant better access for staff, faculty and students.

"With these proposed improvements, we estimate that the capability for storage of collections will increase by 75 percent within the same basic building footprint we currently use," Laufer said. "Because of donor generosity, the museum collections have grown considerably over the last 14 years, and it is our aim that this enhancement will not only accommodate existing holdings but plan for future collections development."

Laufer said she also planned to share design concepts soon for phase two, which is dependent upon charitable giving. "These planning concepts will help us envision what the future might hold for the museum. Seminar rooms, classrooms and additional offices will better connect Auburn students, faculty and the community to the resource that is our museum collections."

Museum staff will still have access to the museum collections and will take this opportunity to focus on collections assessment, maintenance and planning for the events to mark the museum’s reopening this fall. As a part of the festivities, the museum will present the third iteration of "Out of the Box: A Juried Sculpture Exhibition." Project status updates, as well as behind-the-scenes content and educational resources, will be posted to the museum’s social media accounts and website, For more information, call 334-844-1484.